No. 8 Gonzaga jumped out to a 23-9 lead and held on as No. 16 Arizona rallied down the stretch, beating the Wildcats 69-62 in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
The Bulldogs got 18 points and a pair of blocks from 7-foot-1 center Przemek Karnowski’s whose impact on this game cannot be measured by the box score. Karnowski is an unbelievable passer out of the post, but he’s also a terrific scorer that almost has to be double-teamed. And when that double-team comes, the ball is out of his hands and into the hands of an open teammate.
The big man is also a force on the defensive end of the floor, where his size allows him to take up space in the lane and his length causes all kinds of problems for players trying to finish in the paint.
That’s worth noting because he isn’t anywhere near to being the most-heralded player on that roster. That title probably goes to Nigel Williams-Goss, who was all-Pac 12 at Washington. Or Jordan Mathews, who averaged 13 points the last two seasons at Cal. Johnathan Williams III was a top 50 prospect. Zach Collins was a McDonald’s All-American. Josh Perkins was recruited by Kentucky.
Point being, this is a very good Gonzaga team, one with talent and depth.
And Karnowski is as important as anyone on the roster.
It’s also worth noting here that Arizona put up an impressive fight for a team playing with seven guys right now. Parker Jackson-Cartwright sprained his ankle Wednesday night. Allonzo Trier still isn’t playing. And the Wildcats fought back from 14 points down in the first eight minutes to make this a game down the stretch.
Arizona has a lot of issues right now.
But there’s still talent on this roster and this is still a team of kids that are going to battle every time they take the floor.
Arizona took another hit on Wednesday night as starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright suffered an ankle injury in the team’s 85-63 win over Texas Southern.
The good news? X-rays on the injury came back negative.
The bad news?
“He has a high-ankle sprain,” head coach Sean Miller said, “and from what I understand he’s going to be out for a considerable amount of time.”
The Wildcats are already dealing with a season-ending injury to Ray Smith while star guard Allonzo Trier has yet to play this season due to concerns over his eligibility. Without Jackson-Cartwright, the Wildcats will have seven scholarship players available while Kadeem Allen and Kobi Simmons will be tasked with sharing point guard duties.
Kelan Martin led four players in double-figures with 16 points as Butler knocked off No. 8 Arizona, 69-65, in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Bulldogs improved to 6-0 on the season with the win.
Butler’s win is yet another boon for the Big East Conference, which has now won four early-season tournaments – Villanova won the Charleston Classic, Creighton won the Paradise Jam and Xavier won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The loss is Arizona’s first of the season, but it’s not a loss that comes as all that much of a surprise. The Wildcats, who are still playing without Allonzo Trier, struggled to put away Cat St. Bakersfield, Northern Colorado and Santa Clara. This is a young Arizona team that is only getting consistent play from Lauri Markannen, who led the way with 15 points for the Wildcats.
Kobi Simmons scored all 14 of his points against Butler in the second half, helping Arizona dig out of a nine-point hole.
Allonzo Trier’s absence from Arizona basketball appears to be continuing.
The Wildcats sophomore was not with the team as it traveled to Hawaii on Tuesday, according the Arizona Daily Star.
Arizona is playing Michigan State in Honolulu on Friday.
There has been rampant speculation regarding Trier’s status in recent weeks. He was scheduled to be part of Arizona’s contingent at Pac-12 media day, but was a late scratch. He then sat out both of the Wildcats’ exhibition games.
Arizona and coach Sean Miller have declined to comment on Trier’s status in any way.
The Wildcats’ status as one of the country’s top teams and a Pac-12 contender along with Oregon and UCLA seems tenuous with Trier’s status uncertain and Ray Smith suffering a third ACL injury that has ended his basketball career. That’s not even to mention Miller losing prized recruit Terrence Ferguson to the professional ranks overseas months ago.
The Wildcats still have a ton of talent, but Trier was expected to be the linchpin of the offense. If they don’t have him available, it’s hard to see their ceiling stay so high.
Arizona was without a pair of players in its exhibition Tuesday.
Allonzo Trier was held out for unspecified reasons while Chance Comanche is suspended indefinitely.
“Chance Comanche will not play in tonight’s game due to his own lack of academic responsibility,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said in a statement released by the school ahead of the exhibition against the College of Idaho. “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.
“It is not an option to compete and be held accountable on the court but not in the classroom. This suspension is indefinite.”
Comanche played just six minutes per game last year for Arizona, but was expected to see a larger role in his sophomore season.
Trier’s situation is murkier. There have been concerns for the sophomore’s eligibility for the upcoming season, but Miller on Monday declined comment on his situation.
Trier, a top-15 recruit in the 2015 class, averaged 14.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman for the Wildcats, who debuted in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll at No. 10 on Monday.
The Wildcats have another exhibition contest Sunday against Cal State Chico.
Five-star 2017 prospect Brian Bowen has trimmed his list of possible collegiate destinations to six.
Creighton, North Carolina State, UCLA, Michigan State, Arizona and Texas are still under consideration, Bowen announced Wednesday evening.
Bowen, a consensus top-20 recruit, is a 6-foot-8 small forward out of Sagniaw, Mich., but he currently is attending the prestigious La Lumiere School in Indiana. He’s also the cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, leaving many to believe that he’s a heavy Spartan lean.
“People think I’m 100 percent to Michigan State,” Bowen told Brendan Quinn of MLive.com earlier this month. “I love them to death and I’ve been there my whole life and everything — it’s a great coaching staff and everything — but I’m not 100 percent to a school until I commit there. Right now, I’m open to the schools that are recruiting.”
Bowen hasn’t said when he plans on making a final decision.