Arizona plans to insert freshman guard Kerr Kriisa of Estonia into its rotation in his first game of the season when the Wildcats play at Utah on Thursday night in a Pac-12 game.
Kriisa has served an NCAA clearinghouse penalty of 70 percent of Arizona’s scheduled games and will be eligible for the first time for the Wildcats, who need depth at the guard position.
Arizona coach Sean Miller told reporters Tuesday that he expects Kriisa to play at least 10 to 15 minutes against the Utes. Miller has relied heavily on guards James Akinjo and Terrell Brown Jr. after Jemarl Baker Jr. was lost for the season last month because of a broken wrist.
“(Kriisa) could sub in and play the point guard position. He could also be in the game where James, or Terrell, is the point guard,” Miller said. “He could really do both. I think that you’ll see a very equal split, and a blend, because that’s going to give him the most opportunity to contribute.”
A strength for Arizona is the ability of Akinjo and Brown to take care of the ball. They have combined for 158 assists and only 55 turnovers.
Akinjo leads the team with 14.8 points a game and has 97 assists with 39 turnovers. He had eight assists with no turnovers against Cal last Saturday.
The Wildcats (13-4, 7-4 Pac-12) are coming off a split at home losing to Stanford before beating the Golden Bears.
Utah (7-7, 4-6) has momentum after rallying from a 19-point deficit with less than 10 minutes remaining to win at Colorado 77-74 last Saturday.
Alfonso Plummer scored 23 points to help ignite the comeback.
“It is a good start for us to keep winning,” Plummer said. “We beat a top-five team in the Pac-12. It was a really important win.”
Utah has road wins against Washington State and Colorado, a win at home over Stanford and a close loss at UCLA.
In the Utes’ only meeting with Arizona last year, they lost 93-77 in Tucson.
“Any time you play Arizona, you have to expect a tough game, regardless of who is playing,” Utah forward Riley Battin said. “I know last year we got beat pretty bad at their place. We just have to be ready.”
Utah’s Timmy Allen, who has 1,127 career points, is No. 31 on the school’s scoring list. He needs three points to catch Chas Menatti for 30th and seven to reach George Fisher for 29th.
–Field Level Media