Instead of beginning to sort out their playing rotation Tuesday, the Arizona Wildcats were simply handed the only one they may have for a while.
In their 86-35 exhibition win over the College of Idaho, the Wildcats started with just eight available scholarship players and lost forward Ray Smith in the second half with what appeared to be a significant injury after he suffered ACL tears in 2014 and 2015.
Arizona started the game with sophomore forward Chance Comanche suspended indefinitely for academic issues, and Allonzo Trier out for unspecified reasons. UA issued a statement five minutes before game time that had coach Sean Miller saying Comanche was out "due to his own lack of academic responsibility."
"As a member of our basketball program, you are a student and an athlete, and you are expected to do the best of your ability in both areas," Miller said in his statement. "It is not an option to compete and be held accountable on the court but not in the classroom."
Trier's status has been unclear for nearly three weeks, but Miller has repeatedly declined to comment on it. Trier also did not show up as expected for the Oct. 21 Pac-12 media day in San Francisco.
While the College of Idaho is a ranked No. 7 in the NAIA Division I poll, the Yotes faced a considerable size and talent deficit that was obvious early. UA 7-foot forward Lauri Markkanen scored UA’s first two baskets inside, overpowering a team that had nobody over 6-foot-7.
UA held the College of Idaho to just 9.7 percent shooting in the half and outrebounded the Yotes 26-16. The Wildcats led 50-9 at halftime and began inserting walk-ons with 8:30 to go.
By the time both walk-ons Jake DesJardins and Tyler Trillo made their debuts on the McKale Center floor with eight minutes left in the second half, the Wildcats were ahead 74-23 and had outshot the Yotes 56 percent to 17 percent.
However, the loss of Smith cast a pall over the entire McKale Center crowd. Smith went down twice in the first half with what appeared to be minor ankle issues, and left the court under his own power both times.
But when he went up awkwardly and missed a layup with 12:39 to go in the second half, things looked much worse. Smith crumpled on the floor next to the basket and waved for help, using a throat-cutting motion at one point. He was then helped off the court with both legs in the air.
The seven UA players who remained all made up a remarkably balanced offense and defense that kept the Yotes stifled most of the game.
Dusan Ristic led the Wildcats with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Keanu Pinder had a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Kobi Simmons led UA in scoring with 17 points, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Kadeem Allen and Rawle Alkins each had 11 points.
Miller started Jackson-Cartwright, Allen, Alkins, Markkanen and Ristic. Pinder was the first player off the bench, while Smith and Simmons were later inserted.
During a news conference Monday, Miller may have unknowingly foreshadowed his sudden roster issues.
“Every year at this time, we have depth,” he said, “and inevitably injuries and other things can take it away.”