HONOLULU — If there was one thing Arizona figured to miss the most without Allonzo Trier in the lineup, it was pure scoring.
Outside jumpers that he often created on his own, drives to the basket, and tons and tons of free throws, which Trier made at a 79.3-percent rate last season.
There wasn't supposed to be anybody else on the roster with that exact same skillset. But then, in UA's season-opening 65-63 win over Michigan State on Friday, Kobi Simmons scooped a lot of it all up.
The slender, athletic freshman guard from Atlanta had 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting, plus 5 of 6 free throws — in just 13 minutes of the first half in UA's win, pulling UA almost singlehandedly out of an early 17-2 deficit.
So maybe there was a silver lining in Trier's situation? That a guy like Simmons had a chance to grow quickly with all that opportunity?
"There is no silver lining without Allonzo Trier," UA coach Sean Miller said.
Maybe not. But as the length of Trier's ineligibility remains uncertain — UA hasn't even categorized his status for nearly a month now — the Wildcats at least have another scoring threat they can look to.
"Kobi Simmons, for a freshman, showed a lot of confidence and a lot of ability," Miller said. "He had 15 of our 34 (points) at halftime and that's a big reason we got back in the game. He was outstanding.
"He has a lot of talent. We watch him every day and I think the best is yet to come for him, too."
The only current UA player to have participated in a McDonalds All-American Game, Simmons said he feels like he has to enter a game with confidence. The difference was Simmons did it off the bench, a different role for just about any UA freshmen, especially a high-profile one.
Simmons says he's OK with that.
"I just want to win," Simmons said. "At the end of the day, if coach thinks this was best, well that's what's best and that's what I want to do."
Miller said it's too early to determine if Simmons fits a sixth-man role in part because he may not always be a sixth man.
"Who starts two weeks from now and who starts today could be different," Miller said. "But whether he starts or not he's certainly one of our biggest players, one of our most important players. We're only playing eight guys so all of our guys are very important."
Miller said the Wildcats learned plenty from playing Michigan State, and Simmons' emergence on a big stage was one of them.
What else UA learned:
They have a go-to guy in the clutch. Miller has shown a penchant to give the ball to his top veteran when the game comes down to a final bucket, and Friday was no exception.
Kadeem Allen, already drawing Miller's praise for his vocal leadership of the team, was the first option off an inbounds pass with seven seconds left. He delivered by racing confidently coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup.
Miller "put faith and trust in me," Allen said.
Their bulldog is in training. Freshman wing Rawle Alkins struggled to play his power guard game Friday, being called twice for offensive fouls while driving to the basket, and going only 1 for 4 from the field.
But Miller didn't sound too worried about it, having seen Stanley Johnson pick up similar fouls early in his brief UA career, too.
"Rawle's gonna be fine," Miller said. "He's that guy you've seen time and time again where you watch him a month from now, a couple weeks from now, and he's going to be a completely different player than he is now.
"And he did some really great things in (Friday's) game. It's just he's used to scoring. It'll come. He just has to find out how it works for him."
Their frontline is adaptable. Arizona struggled early on defense and had trouble matching up with Michigan State star freshman Miles Bridges throughout Friday's game.
But UA eventually found ways to minimize Bridges' damage, with Miller reducing Dusan Ristic's role (18 minutes) while going with a still big but more athletic frontline of Chance Comanche, Lauri Markkanen and Keanu Pinder at times.
"That's who we have," Miller said. "It's not like we have a lot of choices. We have a group of eight and we have to try to bring out the best in that group of eight.
"Any coach in his first game, (you) don't necessarily know completely what to expect or what to get better at. You learn through game experience. I think this is obviously an experience where we know a lot more about our team than when we came here."
They don't have to be all-business. On a typical Arizona road trip, players barely have time to walk around town, with meetings, study sessions and most meals held in team hotels on top of daily practices.
But last week, the Wildcats spent parts of three straight days at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, learning about history and military life, while preparing to win a Top 25 showdown.
Turned out to be a pretty good way to spend the week.
"It was great all around," Miller said. "First of all, this has been an incredible learning experience for our team. If you ever want to know what our Armed Forces do, veterans, come to Pearl Harbor.
"That in and of itself made this trip worth it. And we knew we were playing against a quality team and program.
"Whether we won or lost we were going to grown and get better from this. The fact that we were able to win makes the trip even nicer."