If there’s one common theme to Arizona’s never-ending string of calamities this season, maybe it’s in how innocuous most of them appear at first.
Talbott Denny heads down to the campus rec center to play pick up ball … and tears an ACL.
Ray Smith goes up for an uncontested layup in an exhibition game … and rips up his entire knee, then retires.
Kadeem Allen shakes off a knee sprain to run coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup against Michigan State … then the injury swells up and prompts him to miss most of the next two games.
Redshirting transfer Dylan Smith falls down in practice without anyone touching him ... and suffers a concussion that takes him away from leading the scout team.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright gets caught in a screen against Texas Southern, appears banged up but walks off the court and into the locker room under his own power … and never comes back, having been found to have suffered a high-ankle sprain to his right ankle that likely will keep him out a month or more.
And Allonzo Trier, well, there’s a number of theories out there of what happened in his unusual case … but none of them involved him needing nearly two months to get an answer about his eligibility.
After UA issued the usual “no comment” warning about Trier prior to Wednesday’s postgame news conference, Miller didn’t elaborate much on his most recent issue.
He said he didn’t even see the collision involving Jackson-Cartwright.
“I don’t know what happened,” Miller said. “He turned his ankle. It’s a high ankle sprain and a bad one.”
While just about everyone left on the “healthy & eligible” portion of the UA roster will have more work to do without Jackson-Cartwright around, Kadeem Allen will likely have the biggest responsibility.
He’ll now have to go back to being a fulltime point guard, while also being the Wildcats’ top perimeter defender, for as many minutes as he can stand.
“He’s already been asked to do a lot,” Miller said. “He plays all three positions. With the teams I’ve had very few players are ever asked to play three positions, especially in the first five games. But he's pretty much played the three positions every game, as did Lauri (Markkanen). Lauri played the five, the four and the three. Kadeem played the one, the two and the three. And that’s what we have to do. We have seven players.”
Allen says he’s “ready for it,” and Miller probably wouldn’t doubt that much.
“Kadeem’s one of the great leaders that I’ve coached,” Miller said. “You may not see that because he’s not an outgoing verbal type of guy. But his effort level every day and really doing everything it takes to win, that’s really what he’s done and that’s what he continues to do. He’s our only senior and he’s playing with his heart.”
On top of praising Markkanen’s considerable offensive skills, Miller said the Finnish big man has also been a sound ballhandler. Markkanen had five assists to no turnovers against Texas Southern, showing both passing skill and presence of mind in finding teammates when he was defended.
“He takes care of the ball,” Miller said. “Sometimes a forward like him becomes a high-turnover players because they’re doing so many different things that they have to adjust to college basketball. There’s really no adjustment (for him). If he would have been able to stay out of foul trouble against Butler, he would have had another big, big night. That’s really the only thing that’s limited him so far.
“He was terrific tonight. Our team is starting to learn his value of when he’s open you want to find him. But no doubt about it -- inside outside, from three. And in fairness to Lauri, he’s playing three positions every game. That’s not easy.”
Keanu Pinder took a couple of three pointers, and made one of them. That was his first made three of the season.
Miller was less than thrilled.
“It’s not a good shot for him or our team,” Miller said. “I don't think I’ve ever seen him shoot a three-point shot other than the two he took tonight. That’s not a good shot for him right now.
“Fifteen to 17 feet is good but Keanu has a special role on our team. He’s a great defender, plays with a lot of energy, very athletic. He gives us a quickness up front that we need and he’s been invaluable so far through seven games. But shooting’s really not his forte. I was surprised as anyone when he made the one he shot.”
While there wasn’t really a scary moment for the Wildcats on Wednesday other than Jackson-Cartwright’s injury, the second-half pace they were forced to play with might have foreshadowed some trouble ahead.
“We didn’t push the ball very hard in the second half just because we were going to run out of gas,” Miller said. “We tried to slow it down. That’s not in our best interest. We’re going to be better in transition … but being really responsible on offense, being selective on how fast we can push it, we have to be really smart because as you get against good teams you can really get in foul trouble. And it’s not just seven players, it’s one or two get in foul trouble and you have a hard time finishing the game.”
All of our game coverage is attached to this post (except the seen-and-heard notebook, which is here), while the box score and updated stats are attached as PDFs.