TUCSON, Ariz. — Allonzo Trier banged knees with a North Dakota State player and immediately went down. The McKale Center fell silent as Arizona’s leading scorer and an All-American candidate writhed on the floor, clutching his left knee.
Trier returned later in the second half with an ice bag on his knee, but his injury put a damper on what was an otherwise dominant performance.
Deandre Ayton scored 25 points and Trier added 15 before leaving with the injury, lifting No. 18 Arizona to an 83-53 rout over North Dakota State on Monday night.
“It’s scary as a player when you feel that in your knee,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I’m sure he’ll have a bruise there and hopefully he’s good for the long haul, and hopefully we get some good news.”
Arizona (9-3) allowed the Bison (5-6) to hang around early before blowing past them with a 29-3 run spanning halftime to win its 46th straight nonconference home game.
The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the floor and kept North Dakota State’s long-range shooters in check most of the night, holding the Bison to 8-of-27 shooting from the 3-point arc to win their sixth straight game.
“Your margin for error isn’t very big against them,” North Dakota State coach David Richman said. “We came out and executed our game plan, they made some adjustments like well-coached teams do and we didn’t handle those adjustments very well.”
Paul Miller, who inadvertently banged knees with Trier, led the Bison with 12 points.
Heading into the game, the Wildcats had rounded back into form since a 0-3 run in the Bahamas knocked them out of the AP Top 25.
Arizona won five straight games after returning stateside, including over No. 7 Texas A&M, a solid Alabama team and New Mexico in The Pit.
The Wildcats had a few defensive breakdowns, and North Dakota State made some difficult shots to keep it close early in the first. The Wildcats began to tighten up defensively midway through the half, and the Bison began clanking shots while failing to score over the final 6:54.
Arizona had some success lobbing the ball over the top into Ayton and Dusan Ristic and scored the final 16 points of the first half to lead 38-22.
Ayton had 13 points by halftime and Trier 10.
Arizona didn’t let up in the second half. Ayton scored on an alley-oop on the Wildcats’ first possession and Arizona went on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 48-25 in the opening 3 1/2 minutes.
The only letdown for the Wildcats in the second half was Trier’s injury, which they hope isn’t serious.
“It happened so fast, we don’t really know,” Arizona’s Rawle Alkins said. “We think he’s doing well. Time will tell.”
North Dakota State was no match for Arizona’s size and athleticism, but won’t face any teams like the Wildcats in the Summit League.
Arizona did was it was supposed to against a Summit League team to continue its stretch of playing well.
A trip to McKale Center hasn’t been North Dakota State’s only difficult game this season.
Before heading to the desert, the Bison played at Southern California, Mississippi State and Stephen F. Austin, losing all three.
“Over the past month or so, we’ve played some difficult places; probably over-aggressive scheduling on my part,” Richman said. “But those are learning opportunities and we’ve gained some confidence.”
A big reason for Arizona’s shaky start to the season was its defense. The D let the Wildcats down in the Bahamas and even in a lopsided win over Long Beach State, Miller lamented his team’s defensive effort.
Arizona appears to be locked in on defense now. The Wildcats had a few early breakdowns, but were good the rest of the way, getting out on shooters, rotating well to help and challenging shots at the rim.
“It’s not just one person, it’s everybody helping and we probably did that better than we have this season,” Miller said.
North Dakota State hosts UNC-Wilmington on Thursday.
Arizona hosts UConn on Thursday.