Derrick Williams had his right pinky buried in tape and gauze, mummifying most of his shooting hand. Any contact caused pain. Any shot had to be retooled.
Not that any of it slowed him down.
Williams shrugged off the pain to score 21 points and grab eight rebounds, and No. 21 Arizona beat Stanford 78-69 on Thursday night for its fourth straight victory.
”It was bothering me a little bit,” Williams said of his pinky. ”But not too much.”
The thick bandages that blanketed the sophomore star’s hand were to protect his sprained pinky after it was bent backward against UCLA last week. He still scored 20 in a win over USC with the injury and backed it up with another complete performance that had all his teammates involved, too.
Lamont Jones added 15 points, and Jesse Perry scored 12 to help the Wildcats (19-4, 8-3) overtake Washington for the Pac-10 lead after the Huskies lost to Oregon State earlier in the night.
”Our team played with a lot of poise and executed well on the road,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ”The shots we took and got were good shots. We had a problem rebounding, but we put together a couple of good shots and got a key rebound or two, and kind of broke the game open in the last four minutes.”
Jeremy Green had 21 points, and Josh Owens finished with 13 points and nine rebounds for Stanford (11-10, 4-6), which is suddenly struggling at home. After winning their first eight at Maples Pavilion this season, the Cardinal are 1-3 since.
The disappointment resonated again after this one.
”It was a big game,” Green said. ”They’re in the top of our conference, ranked in the nation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win.”
The competition, of course, has improved dramatically.
Williams anchored a Wildcats front line that had more size and strength than Stanford could match. He did so despite the wrap that covered his pinky, stretched around his wrist and went up his right arm.
Knowing contact would cause pain, Williams contested a dunk by Owens with more than three minutes remaining, forcing a key miss with a foul. Williams held his hand, grimacing, but perhaps the discomfort was worth it — Owens missed one of two free throws when both would’ve tied the game.
The Wildcats slowly built a lead from there, going ahead 68-62 on Williams’ layup, and Jones finished off the Cardinal with some strong free throw shooting in the final minute.
”In certain places you feel a groove,” Jones said. ”This is one of those places. I don’t know why. It’s just one of those places that fuels my fire. The crowd does that to me also.”
But this night belonged to his teammate.
On one play in the first half, Williams dribbled baseline with his right hand, came back underneath the basket and finished with a left-handed layup — and drew the foul on Josh Huestis. Williams missed the free throw, but the basket gave Arizona a 26-17 lead.
The play had Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins stomping his foot, screaming for a timeout. The Cardinal showed some fight by scoring eight straight points in a run punctuated by one of John Gage’s three three-pointers in the opening half.
The Wildcats built back their lead before the break and seemed to be ready to pull away early. Then Stanford started the second half on a 12-1 run to go ahead 45-40, but the Wildcats quickly tied the game and things stayed close until they flexed their muscles at the finish.
”They did have more girth than us,” Dawkins said. ”Our kids were smaller. But, you know what? Their heart was in the right place. I thought they competed and gave us what they had.”