SALT LAKE CITY — Allonzo Trier never breaks eye contact. He doesn’t blink.
The Arizona Wildcats’ guard twists the diamond stud earring in his left ear.
“I feel good about my ability,” he says. “I just have to have the opportunity to be called on and then most of the time it’s going to turn out in something positive.”
He twists the diamond stud on the right ear, still focused.
“I stay even-keeled,” he says, “and then when it’s my turn to make big plays, like I did in the second half, I do it and I stay the same.”
Trier didn’t look like himself in the first half of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament win against Saint Mary’s. He took just four shots, and missed them all. One 3-point attempt was a horrendous miss. Early in the game, Trier stepped out of bounds as he was receiving a pass. Saint Mary’s ball.
“He was running down the sideline and he caught the ball out-of-bounds,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “It’s that old line, ‘the line doesn’t move; it’s there.’ Come on now.”
Rawle Alkins gave Arizona the boost it needed Saturday, returning to the game after exiting with a fractured finger. He finished with just six points, but swung the momentum and probably made the game’s biggest impact.
Lauri Markkanen had the two biggest blocks of his career and scored 16 points, but he also attempted only six shots.
And Trier found his stroke, eventually. The sophomore guard made his first shot with 16:39 remaining in the game, and finished with 14 points and six rebounds. Not surprisingly, the Wildcats found their stride when Trier hit his.
Even on an off-night, he was Arizona’s streakiest scorer and best attacker.
“I mean, I missed shots today early on that I should make,” Trier said. “I missed one wide left when they went under a ball screen, and it’s like, ‘Oh he missed it, he’s off today. But then it’s like, ‘nobody says that if it goes in,’” Trier said after the game.
“That’s a shot that I make regularly. Then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Oh man, he’s forcing it, he’s missing.’”
Trier doesn’t think that way.
“You understand that yourself, and you stick with yourself, you trust yourself and your teammates, and what your coaches do,” he said. “You know that when it’s your turn, and your number’s called, you step up and you answer the bell.”
Here’s how he did it:
Trier’s first shot of the second half went in. He missed one jumper, then another one at the 13:04 mark. He made a 3-pointer at the 10:47 mark to give Arizona a 47-46 lead, one that the Wildcats would not relinquish the rest of the game. With 10:11 left, Trier forced a fadeaway jumper — think Dirk Nowitzki — over a taller defender, and banked it in.
Trier scored nine of Arizona’s 11 points as the Wildcats went on an 11-2 run. He finished the game by hitting three of four free throws.
“We’re a more confident team when we see the ball going in and he’s shooting the ball,” guard Kadeem Allen said. “That’s the type of guy he is. And when he does that, we’re just a better team.”
All of Trier’s points came in the second half, when Arizona needed them most.
“I put on my poker face,” Trier said. “Then you won’t know if I missed my last five or I made my last five. Then I get cooking.”
“I don’t even have to make a shot,” he added. “I’ve always been tough-minded, and never let it affect me. I may look (stonefaced), but I’m just focused on the game. I’m not going to let it get to me, I’m not going to let it wear on me, and then I don’t want my teammates to see that it’s affected me, because then it’ll affect them. I stay even-keeled.”
In the NBA, there’s a term for a player who isn’t afraid to shoot the ball, no matter the situation, whether he’s open or covered, whether he’s missed every shot or made all of them.
He’s called an “irrational confidence guy.”
Trier is, above all else, confident in himself.
Arizona is about to leave the locker room Saturday night and Trier is done twisting on his diamond studs, done talking. He’s ready to go.
“I think he’s been thinking about this moment for a long time,” Miller said. “He wants it very badly.”