Allonzo Trier was writhing in pain, pounding his fists into the McKale Center floor out of frustration, all while some easygoing music seeped out of the loudspeakers.
It was the only noise in the building.
While Arizona wound up coasting to a 83-53 win over North Dakota State on Monday, despite being tied at 22 after nearly 14 minutes, the real scare the Wildcats had to deal with was watching their standout junior guard bang his left knee up in a collision with North Dakota State’s Paul Miller with 9:53 to go.
Trier appeared to at least suffer a bone bruise, coach Sean Miller said, after his left knee locked with Paul Miller’s, and was then extended when the Bison guard dribbled away from his defense near the left corner.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Sean Miller said. “You don’t really know about these things until maybe another night goes by and we’ll take a look at it tomorrow. I think No. 1, it’s some form of a bone bruise and if it’s more than that it would have happened because he collided with another guy’s knee.
“It’s scary for a player when that happens. It doesn’t feel right. But we’re hoping for some good news. It seems to be positive, but we’ll know more (Tuesday).”
While it didn’t appear to be a long-term or season-ending injury, Miller hesitated when asked if that was the case.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a heck of a question. I’m not sure. … Could be one day.”
Miller’s reluctance to even speculate about Trier’s health was understandable. So was the McKale crowd’s almost complete silence when he went down.
This is a coach, and a fan base, that has seen four ACL tears in just over the past two years, two of which came to forward Ray Smith and forced him to retire from the game as a redshirt freshman. There was also an ACL tear that kept reserve forward Talbott Denny out last season and one that’s keeping walk-on guard Kory Jones out this year.
And that’s just knees. Rawle Alkins just returned after missing nine games with a broken foot suffered, coincidentally enough, on the same day that the FBI announced its widespread investigation into college basketball, leading to the arrest of UA assistant coach Book Richardson.
Any hint of trouble, like having a star player roll around on the floor, can trigger some pretty high anxiety these days.
But on Monday, at least, the Wildcats moved on pretty quickly. Trier was helped off the floor by trainer Justin Kokoskie and returned with a pack of ice on his left knee with three minutes left in the game.
While it wasn’t known Monday if Trier would be available Thursday for UA’s non-conference finale against UConn, it was clear that the Wildcats continue to make positive momentum away from their 0-3 Bahamian trip last month.
UA (9-3) has won six straight, putting the Bison (5-6) away with a stifling 26-3 run that spanned parts of both halves while straightening out issues offensively and defensively.
North Dakota State actually held leads of up to four points early and shot 50 percent through the first 10 minutes of the game, while making 4 of 6 threes.
Then Arizona clamped down. The Bison missed their final 10 3-pointers in the first half and wound up shooting just 37 percent for the game, and 29.6 percent from 3-point range.
Over the last 30 minutes, the Wildcats had adjusted.
“It was just dialing in on defense,” forward Deandre Ayton said. “We watched a lot of film on these guys and were really locked in. … We realized they were a 3-point shooting team and they gave us a little bit of a break not coming to the paint as much.”
On offense, meanwhile, it was no surprise that Ayton led the way.
He had 25 points on 11 for 17 shooting along with nine rebounds, dominating the smaller Bison nearly every time he touched the ball.
Ayton took just nine shots in UA’s 89-73 win at New Mexico on Saturday, and Miller said after Monday’s game it is imperative that the Wildcats get him the ball — not only because he can score so efficiently but also because he can pass.
Ayton threw in a variety of dunks, midrange shots and other close-in buckets. He threw down one dunk five seconds before halftime and had another off an alley-oop from Parker Jackson-Cartwright early in the second half.
Jackson-Cartwright also hit Alkins for another alley-oop dunk early in the second half, while Alkins shot 3 for 8 for 11 points after dropping 26 points on New Mexico.
Miller said Alkins struggled more Monday but said the Wildcats had “positive play” all the way down his bench.
That included freshman forward Emmanuel Akot, who played 10 minutes after not appearing in the Wildcats’ previous two games, while Alex Barcello played 11 in the second half after sitting out at New Mexico with an ankle sprain.