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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Rawle Alkins’ ‘savage’ return lifts Arizona over Saint Mary’s

Simon Asher
Arizona’s Rawle Alkins makes his way past Saint Mary’s Calvin Hermanson (24) during the UA-SMC game on Saturday, March 18.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rawle Alkins left the game halfway through the first half against Saint Mary’s hunched over, holding his right index finger in pure agony and the glue piece for Arizona was missing at the worst possible time.

The Wildcats were trailing 17-12 with just over 10 minutes left and then SMC went on a quick 5-0 run to give the Gaels a 10-point lead. The vibe was Arizona wouldn’t allow the game to slip from its hands, but without arguably the most consistent player all season for head coach Sean Miller, the Wildcats lost their edge.

It was “exactly” similar to Kadeem Allen’s finger injury a few weeks ago, however his finger actually popped out of the skin and required seven stitches, while Alkins’ finger was faced at an angle.

“A Saint Mary’s player shot the ball and I ran in to go grab the rebound and I remember jumping with my hands and my finger hit the ball—I saw it and my right finger looked like my left finger,” Alkins said. “It wasn’t that bad and the doctor popped it back in and I did an x-ray to see if it was broken and luckily it was just a minor fracture so I should be good.”

Some people can’t even hold a pencil or brush their teeth correctly with a fractured finger and Alkins was antsy in the locker room trying to convince Arizona’s team doctor Justin Kokoskie to allow him back on the court when he saw SMC take an 8-point lead.

Related: Organized chaos leads Alkins back to the court

“I was watching the game and I saw we were down by eight and I told the doctor, ‘you have to do whatever it takes to get me back on the court’ and luckily it was a minor fracture—I said ‘so I can play?’ and I just taped it up a little bit and ran back on the court,” Alkins said.

Taped it up a little bit? Alkins’ fingers were wrapped up like a burrito and he entered the game with three minutes left until halftime.

“He normally doesn’t get hurt ever so I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew he would come back and he gave us everything he had,” said Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

In just one minute of action, he snagged a defensive rebound, went coast-to-coast for a layup and got an assist on the next offensive possession when five minutes before that, his finger was dislocated.

“When you do that as a freshman and you are in the NCAA Tournament and you leave the game, number one, it’s not easy to come back into the game, but to come back and play well says a lot about Rawle,” Miller said.

Even during halftime warmups, Kokoskie was standing next to Alkins evaluating his comfort by his shooting form and he was cringing every other shot he put up. Once he made five three-pointers in a row, he and Kokoskie shared a smile and it was go-time from there.

In the second half, he went 2-for-5 from the field and a couple of layups that he missed rimmed out so who knows how differently his offensive game would’ve ended on a healthy finger, but he’s from Brooklyn. This brand of toughness goes back to when he was a young bull growing up.

“Honestly, Rawle is a Warrior,” said assistant head coach Book Richardson. “From Christ the King High School with Joe Arbitello—he raised him right. His mom, she’s done a great job with him. His cousin Rodney, they breathe that so I just want to’ make sure the planet of Brooklyn was okay and no one lost their mind—he’s fine.”

When Arizona trailed the Gaels 46-44 and Alkins had a steal that sparked a 7-0 run and the Wildcats didn’t look back. The Wildcats became dogs late in the game and sure we can sit here and talk about how special Lauri Markkanen’s performance was or how sweet Allonzo Trier’s offensive game was, but could Arizona have won that game if it weren’t for Alkins’ return? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know, but Alkins had Arizona on his chest and Brooklyn on his back and he was a key reason for their win on Saturday.

“He’s extremely special and he does stuff that you can’t teach and when he came back and made those plays, that savage life—what he preaches is what he does every day.”

Now that Arizona looks forward to the Sweet 16 matchup against Xavier, Alkins will be in full force for next week after some downtime.

“Coach said give it a couple of days and I’ll be good,” Alkins said.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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