Alkins, Trier lead No. 23 Arizona against North Dakota State

Arizona is definitely happy to have sophomore wing Rawle Alkins back on the floor.

The New York native missed the first nine games of the season while he recovered from foot surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot that he suffered just as the preparations for the year were set to begin in late September.

The 23rd-ranked Wildcats (8-3) went through their ups and downs without Alkins in the rotation including three losses on their trip to The Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The versatile forward made his season debut earlier in the month against Alabama, but he exploded Saturday in his return to the starting lineup as the Wildcats took care of New Mexico, 89-73. It was just the second game back for Alkins and he posted a career-high leading the team with 26 points to go with five rebounds and a pair of assists.

“I missed 10 weeks and my first game back it was just all about the win for me,” Alkins said. “The second game, I’ve been practicing hard and been working hard on rehabbing, and it’s been paying off.”

Arizona was missing something without Alkins on the floor and it was hard to pinpoint exactly what that was at times. It impacted the effort and toughness, but now that the sophomore has returned to the team there is a renewed confidence for the Wildcats.

“Simply put we’re a much better team with him, because he’s one of our best players,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “If he didn’t play tonight the game would have been a much different game.”

While Alkins stole the headlines in Arizona’s win over New Mexico there was another player who continues to show that he might be Arizona’s most important player. Junior guard Allonzo Trier is the team’s leading scorer averaging 22.3 points. In the win over the Lobos, he had to play more point guard than he has all year because of an ankle injury to backup point guard Alex Barcello plus some early foul trouble for starting point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

He delivered with his usual ability to get to the basket and free-throw line turning in 22 points to go with five assists in a game-high 37 minutes of action.

“We spent a lot of time without Parker in the first half and it led to me having kind of a different role,” Trier said. “Kind of facilitating and running the team and not being the scorer, but just making sure I’m the guy getting the ball up the floor and we’re getting into the offense.

North Dakota State (5-5) heads into Monday night’s 9 p.m. ET tip with a bit of momentum after two wins. The Bison already faced one Pac-12 team this season, USC, and lost by just 10 points. It will be the first ever meeting between Arizona and NDSU.

The Bison are led by two double-digit scorers, Paul Miller (16.0 points per game) and Tyson Ward (10.9) who both have started all 10 games this season.

“We’ve proven that we can play with anybody,” NDSU head coach David Richman said. “But, we’ve also proven on the same page that it’s going to be a tough night as well.”