TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Third-ranked Arizona was short-handed for its season opener. It hardly mattered. The Wildcats still had Allonzo Trier, Deandre Ayton and plenty more talent to overwhelm Northern Arizona 101-67 on Friday night.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Third-ranked Arizona was short-handed for its season opener. It hardly mattered.
The Wildcats still had Allonzo Trier, Deandre Ayton and plenty more talent to overwhelm Northern Arizona 101-67 on Friday night.
Trier, back for his junior season, scored a career-high 32 points, making 10 of 13 shots, including both 3-point tries, and 10 of 11 free throws.
"He's a pre-season All-American, right?" Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "That's what he was tonight."
Trier scored 22 in the first 20 minutes, the highest-scoring half of his career.
"I decided to come out and play hard, compete, try to set the tone for my teammates," he said. "Being one of the older guys, one of the leaders on this team, I just tried to take care of business."
Ayton, Arizona's acclaimed 7-foot-1 freshman, had 19 points and 12 rebounds in his collegiate debut. Dusan Ristic added 20 points for the Wildcats, who shot 60 percent from the field.
The Wildcats, without four players either due to discipline or injury, led by as many as 21 points in the first half. The Lumberjacks cut it to 10 in the opening minute of the second half before Arizona blew the game open.
Arizona also was without two assistant coaches, most notably Book Richardson, who has been indicted on federal bribery and fraud charges and remains on the school payroll.
As announced by the school earlier in the day, assistant coach Mark Phelps is serving a two-game suspension for an undisclosed NCAA violation and forward Keanu Pinder was out for one game, also due to an NCAA violation.
Miller said he supported the school's statement but declined to comment further on the issue.
Among players, Dylan Smith is serving a one-game suspension for a team violation. Brandon Randolph is being treated for a concussion and Rawle Alkins has a broken foot. All but Alkins could be back for the next game.
Miller said Trier "has put in as much work on the game of basketball as any player that we've had."
"From an offensive perspective, he takes a back seat to nobody," Miller said. "... Our defense was not very good tonight, especially in the first half. The reason that we had the lead that we had was how prolific he was on offense."
He said Ayton "did well" in his first game.
Defensively, Miller said Ayton wasn't stopping the ball in the first half the way he usually does and the coaches talked to him about that at halftime.
"He was more passive in the first half," Miller said. "But he was way more aggressive in the second half defensively."
All three of Ayton's blocked shots came in the second half.
Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy called Ayton "unbelievable."
He said he looked at the photos of the great players in Arizona's basketball history on the wall at the nearby Richard Jefferson Gymnasium "and I don't know if there is one person that compares to Ayton at this stage."
"Obviously there have been some special players that have come through here, but Deandre Ayton is a special player."
The Wildcats shot out to a 13-4 lead and were up 45-24 after Trier's two free throws with 4:58 to play.
Trier's breakaway dunk on a turnover had Arizona up 49-29 with 2:51 to play.
Northern Arizona scored the final seven of the half to cut the Wildcats' lead to 49-36. The NAU run reached 10-0 when Chris Bowling opened the second half with a 3-pointer to cut Arizona's lead to 49-39.
Bowling led Northern Arizona with 11 points.
Northern Arizona: The Lumberjacks got $95,000 for coming to Tucson, even though they knew they really didn't have a shot at winning. They were 9-23 last season and finished 10th in the Big Sky last year but should be at least a little better this season.
Arizona: The Wildcats, still under the cloud of that FBI probe, could have the best talent yet for Miller, a group that includes a standout five-player freshman class with a blend of talented veterans. Arizona won't be tested until next week's trip to the Bahamas, where they will face North Carolina State in an eight-team tournament that includes No. 6 Villanova.
Northern Arizona: Hosts Embry-Riddle on Monday night.
Arizona: Hosts Maryland, Baltimore County on Sunday.
Follow Bob Baum on Twitter @thebaumerphx