The undermanned No. 16 Arizona Wildcats put up a fight but fell short to No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday, but the bigger story was once again the status of their star guard who has yet to play this season.
Sophomore guard Allonzo Trier, who was arguably UA's best player last season, hasn't played in any of Arizona's first eight games of this season due to an NCAA eligibility issue. We still don't know what that issue is, as the university has remained tight-lipped on the reason for his absence and hasn't discussed whether Trier will be eligible to play at all this season.
On Friday, hope emerged that Trier would finally take the court for the Wildcats, as he traveled with the team for the first time this season. But on Saturday, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder didn't suit up and once again sat on the Arizona bench throughout the game.
According to the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe: "Players ineligible under NCAA rules must pay their own way on road trips," though Pascoe noted Trier did not travel with the team on their trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas earlier this season.
Before the game, UA basketball coach Sean Miller actually discussed Trier for the first time in recent memory, though he didn't address his reason for him not playing.
"He's allowed to travel and I guess that's a good thing, certainly for Allonzo," Miller said, according to Anthony Gimino of tucsonnewsnow.com, adding "we're a much better basketball team in practice than we are in games, but it's good to have him here."
The Wildcats (6-2) were also without junior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who suffered a high ankle sprain during Wednesday's win over Texas Southern. Miller said Jackson-Cartwright will miss a "substantial amount of time," leaving Arizona with just seven healthy, eligible scholarship players. The Wildcats have already lost forward Ray Smith for the season with an ACL tear.
As for the game: Arizona freshman Rawle Alkins scored 16 points and 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen had 14 points and eight rebounds as the Wildcats rallied from a 16-point deficit to trim Gonzaga's lead to five with two minutes to play.
Dusan Ristic, a fellow 7-footer, added 12 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Kobi Simmons, who was averaging 13.0 points, shot 1 of 9 and finished with two points.
The Wildcats got to 63-58 on a basket by Chance Comanche before Nigel Williams-Goss hit a floater for the Zags, their last basket of the game with 1:10 to play. With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 8-0 on the season.
The Wildcats shot 36 percent in the first half when they had nine turnovers. They struggled to get on track and only once reduced their deficit to single digits in the half. They shot 39 percent for the game and finished with 12 turnovers.