Arizona adds firepower as Washington State visits

Arizona guard Allonzo Trier will make his season home debut Thursday night when the seventh-ranked Wildcats take on Washington State in Tucson, Ariz.

Trier returned to the court Saturday in Arizona’s 96-85 victory at then-No. 3 UCLA, recording 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and only one turnover in 27 minutes. The sophomore missed the first 19 games of the season following an NCAA suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Although the school won an appeal — Trier said in a statement the substance was given to him without his or the university’s knowledge — he had to wait about two months before being able to play while the banned substance cleared his system.

Now, he will return to McKale Center in a game in which Arizona (18-2, 7-0) shouldn’t have too much trouble. Washington State (10-9, 3-4) is coming off an overtime home win over Colorado but had lost its three previous games, averaging only 51.7 points in that span.

Trier averaged 14.8 points per game last season and gives coach Sean Miller a rotation that can comfortably go nine deep.

“He gives us more firepower on offense. Now, it’s up to us to be even more efficient,” Miller said.

“Defensively, he gives us more depth. We can play through foul trouble a little bit better and I think we can hold our team to the highest level of effort.

“It gives us a jolt of energy. At this time of year, when you tend to lose players, we’re lucky to have one back.”

Arizona, tied for the Pac-12 lead with Oregon, has won 12 consecutive games.

Trier’s scoring and ability to drive to the basket should make life on offense even easier for 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen, as defenses have to also focus elsewhere. The Finnish forward is averaging a team-high 17.1 points and is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (48 of 96). The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week has drained 16 of 22 3-point shots in the past four games.

“What stands out about him is that he has guard skills,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.

“He shoots the ball extremely well. He can put it on the floor. He’s a matchup nightmare with that size, that skill set and, quite frankly, with the confidence he’s playing with.

“With their full roster back now, it’s just gives him more confidence. That’s the scary part.”

Two other Arizona freshmen — guard Kobi Simmons (12.1 points per game) and wing Rawle Alkins (11.9) — average double-digit points. One might lose his starting job once Trier is elevated back to the starting lineup, although Miller said he’ll play that by ear.

The Cougars are led by senior forward Josh Hawkinson, who averages a double-double (15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds). Guard Ike Iroegbu (11.0 point per game) is another veteran presence, and guard Malachi Flynn (11.3) is having a standout freshman season.

“Josh Hawkinson has always been one of my favorite players in our conference,” Miller said. “He’s done it year-in and year-out. I feel like he’s been there for about six years.”

Washington State will be trying to end a 10-game losing streak to the Wildcats. This is the first meeting of the season between the teams.