Williams scores 23 as Arizona beats Stanford
TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona’s unexpected rise in the Pac-10 scramble coincides with consistent big games from Derrick Williams.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound freshman scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half Thursday night to help the Wildcats win their third straight, and fourth in five games, 76-68 over Stanford.
“I have a hard time believing there are many freshmen in college basketball that are better than him,” Arizona’s first-year coach Sean Miller said, “or are impacting their team more than him.”
Williams has scored at least 20 in each of the last four games.
“Just making free throws,” he explained. “Early in the season I was going 3 for 6, or 5 for 10, so those extra five points bring me to 20 because I average 15.”
He was 8 of 9 from the line on Thursday night.
Landry Fields scored 31 and Jeremy Green 25 for the Cardinal (10-10, 4-4 Pac-10), who trailed 68-56 after Williams’ dunk with 2 1/2 minutes to play.
With Williams on the bench as Miller chose to finish with a smaller lineup, Stanford cut it to 71-67 on Green’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left before Arizona sealed the victory from the free-throw line.
Kyle Fogg added 15 and Nic Wise 14 for the Wildcats (11-9, 5-3), winners of three straight for the first time this season.
“It means a lot,” Wise said of Arizona’s spot near the top of the Pac-10. “We knew we could be here, with the tough nonconference schedule, top five in the country, we knew it would catch up with us. It’s been key for helping our freshmen grow up.”
Fields, the Pac-10’s No. 2 scorer coming off a career-best 32 points against Oregon last weekend, grabbed 11 rebounds.
“I can’t imagine nationally there are many forwards better than him,” Miller said. “I don’t think he gets nearly the respect he deserves.”
The Wildcats shot just 33 percent, 29 percent in the second half, statistics offset by Arizona advantages of 19-7 in offensive rebounds and 18-10 in turnovers.
“When you shoot 32 percent (actually 32.8) it’s very difficult to do,” Miller said, “but we had 19 offensive rebounds. A month ago it would have taken two or three games to get that.”
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said the Wildcats “did a terrific job at crashing the boards.”
“Some of those were just guys being in the right place at the right time but they really did a good job of spacing to put them in that position to get those boards,” Dawkins said.
The Wildcats, who can earn a share of first place in the conference by beating Pac-10 leader California on Sunday, led the entire second half after Wise’s two free throws with .9 seconds left in the half gave Arizona 37-33 lead at the break.
Williams scored the first five of the second half, including his second 3-pointer of the season – in six tries – then Jamelle Horne made one of two free throws to put the Wildcats ahead 43-33.
Green’s 3-pointer sliced Arizona’s lead to 44-40, but a technical foul was called against Dawkins. Wise made the two free throws, Fogg sank a 3, and Williams dunked in a 7-0 spurt that made it 51-40 with 12:24 to go.
“Coach was just trying to inspire us,” Fields said. “I think we just have to respond better when that happens.”
Fields’ 3-pointer cut the lead to 61-55 with 6:14 to play, but a 7-1 spurt, capped by Williams’ dunk, gave Arizona its biggest lead of the night, 68-56.
Wise, a 90-percent free-throw shooter going into the game (91 of 101), made the first free throw with 20 seconds left to make it 72-67, but he missed the second. Knowing his shot was short, he ran toward the basket and grabbed the rebound. He was fouled, and this time made both free throws to put Arizona up 74-67 13 seconds from the end.
Horne’s two free throws with 9 seconds left wrapped up the scoring.