A finger injury wasn’t enough to slow Arizona’s Derrick Williams. Opposing defenses haven’t been successful at slowing him lately, either.
Williams looks to continue his outstanding season and help No. 21 Arizona match a season high with its fifth straight victory Saturday at California.
Williams has been the top offensive option for the Wildcats (19-4, 8-2 Pac-10) all season, and that was the case again Thursday in a 78-69 victory over Stanford, as the sophomore star had 21 points and eight rebounds despite dealing with a sprained right pinkie.
It was the third straight game of at least 20 points for last season’s Pac-10 freshman of the year. He is averaging 22.1 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from the field in his last six games.
Williams’ latest effort was particularly impressive because he had part of his shooting hand buried in tape and gauze to protect his pinkie after it was bent backward against UCLA last week. The injury didn’t effect his shooting touch as Williams - shooting 63.4 percent this season - connected on 8 of 14.
“It was bothering me a little bit,” Williams said of his pinkie. “But not too much.”
A strong inside game was Williams’ biggest strength last season, but he has also developed into an excellent outside shooter in 2010-11, sinking 24 of 35 from 3-point range.
“I don’t know if I have seen a forward be that comfortable being able to go both ways,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Usually, you see some of that with like a 6-foot guard, but Derrick is kind of like that. And that is why he is so hard to not foul and why he gets to the line so well.”
Lamont Jones added 15 points, Jesse Perry scored 12 and Kyle Fogg had 11 on Thursday as the Wildcats put four players in double figures for the first time in 16 games.
Arizona opened this season with five straight wins, but those came against inferior opponents. A victory over California (13-9, 6-4) would give the Wildcats five consecutive victories against conference foes for the first time since a six-game run Jan. 29-Feb. 14, 2009.
Williams scored a career-high 31 points in Arizona’s 73-71 home victory over California on Jan. 6. He matched that output two games later against Arizona State.
The Golden Bears stretched their winning streak to four with a 66-62 win over Arizona State on Thursday as freshman Allen Crabbe scored seven points down the stretch, including a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left.
Jorge Gutierrez had 18 points and Markhuri Sanders-Frisson added 13 for California, which has lost three in a row against ranked teams since beating then-No. 21 Temple on Nov. 25.
An improved defense has keyed the Bears’ win streak. They have held opponents to 65.5 points per game after allowing 79.1 in the previous six games, resulting in four losses.
Harper Kamb (14.3) and Gutierrez (12.6) are California’s leading scorers, but neither has fared well against Arizona. Kamb has averaged 4.6 points in five meetings while Gutierrez has been limited to 5.0 per game on 7-of-22 shooting in five games.
The Wildcats have won 18 of the last 23 meetings overall, but have dropped their last two visits to Berkeley by a combined 38 points.