Williams leads Arizona over California
TUCSON, Ariz. – The country is learning how good Derrick Williams is. So is Derrick Williams.
The dominating sophomore scored a career-high 31 points, 19 in the second half, and Arizona rallied from a nine-point deficit to escape with a 73-71 victory over California on Thursday night.
Williams grabbed 12 rebounds and broke his single-game school record for free throw attempts, going 16 of 22.
“We can’t defend the foul line,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “Williams had 22 foul shots. Our center had zero. Zero! That’s hard.”
Down 70-67, California had a chance to tie when Arizona’s Kevin Parrom fouled freshman Allen Crabbe on a 3-point attempt with 33.5 seconds to play. But Crabbe, an 83 percent free throw shooter, missed one of the three.
Crabbe led the Bears (7-7, 0-2) with 17 points. Jorge Gutierrez added 14 points and four steals. Fourteen of Gutierrez’s family members made the 12-hour drive from Chihuahua, Mexico, to see him, for the first time, play for Cal.
Lamont “Momo” Jones and Jamelle Horne each scored 10 points for Arizona (13-3, 2-1).
Williams set the school record for free throw attempts last season when he went 13 of 21 against Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational three games into his freshman year. His 16 made free throws Thursday night were a personal best and two off the Arizona record.
“He was really terrific,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “He’s being recognized as one of the best players in the country, and a performance like he had tonight shows he’s worthy of that.”
After Arizona lost at Oregon State on Sunday, Miller had a talk with Williams on the bus ride from Corvallis to Portland. The message after one of his worst games of the season was to not get down on himself to “keep plugging along.”
“It’s not my personality to be selfish,” Williams said, “but I have to be more aggressive and call for the ball more. We have to play to our strengths.”
Richard Solomon, 13 of 29 at the free throw line entering the game, went 5 of 6, including two that cut the lead to 72-71 with 11 seconds to play. Solomon Hill was fouled and made one of two free throws to give California the ball with 2 seconds to play. But Gutierrez’s shot from just inside midcourt was far off the mark.
Cal scored the final four points of the first half and first eight of the second, taking a surprising 41-32 lead on an inside basket by burly Mark Sanders-Frison. Arizona missed eight shots in a row before Williams made a short bank shot with 16:48 to play.
Sanders-Frison, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half, made three inside shots in a row to give Cal a 55-48 lead 9 minutes from the finish. A 7-2 Arizona spurt, punctuated by Horne’s second 3-pointer of the half, cut the lead to 57-55 with 7:10 remaining. The Wildcats finally caught the Bears at 60-60 after two of Williams’ free throws with 5:28 left.
Arizona scored nine straight points on free throws, the last two by Jones, to take the lead for good 64-62 with 3:39 remaining.
The Wildcats shot out to a 15-5 lead. Then Montgomery shifted to a zone defense, and the Bears climbed back into it. Crabbe’s third 3-pointer of the night tied it at 27 with 5 minutes to go in the half.
“There isn’t a team in the country that’s played against more zones than Arizona,” Miller said. “… It’s my opinion that everybody’s playing zone because of Derrick.”
Williams put the Wildcats up 30-27. Crabbe made two free throws, and then Kyle Fogg hit a 16-footer to give Arizona a 32-29 lead. Solomon scored inside for Cal before Gutierrez put the Bears ahead for the first time 33-32 with two free throws 0.7 seconds before halftime.
Gutierrez became the Arizona crowd’s villain after he was slammed into the advertising signs behind the basket on a hard foul by Parrom, then shoved Parrom’s hands away when the Arizona player offered to help him up.
With four new starters on his team, Montgomery liked much of what he saw, despite the loss.
“Arizona just lost to Oregon State, so nobody is invincible in this conference,” he said. “I just want us to play good basketball. There are going to be more losses. But as long as they care and they play hard, I can’t find fault with that.”