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It’s the same old happy story for the Arizona Wildcats: Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams goes around 7-2 Jordan Bachynski for two of his 31 points vs. ASU.
Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona State is a flawed team. Arizona is a flawed team. One team has an All-American. The other doesn’t.

That was the story. For Arizona. Again.

I mean, there are some sidebars and subplots, but what else do you write about? It’s Derrick Williams … Derrick Williams … Derrick Williams.

The sophomore forward tied his career-high with 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in an 80-69 victory over the Sun Devils on Saturday afternoon. It’s not like that kind of performance ever gets old.

Arizona coach Sean Miller was asked early in his postgame news conference if he felt like “a broken record singing Derrick’s praises.”

“No,” Miller said with the grin of a coach who won the lottery.

“I think he has emerged as one of the special players in college basketball, certainly in our conference. You look at his free throw attempts, his rebounding, his numbers, the consistency in which he does it.

“Every team and coach that plays against us starts with trying to make the game hard for him.”

Arizona State tried to make it hard for Williams. The Sun Devils tried to trap him in the middle of the zone, double-teamed him, tried to deny the entry pass, ran a number of different players at him, including 7-foot-2 freshman Jordan Bachynski in the second half.

“They had about five different guys on me, just to see what I would do and how I would react,” Williams said. “And, you know, it worked the first five minutes.”

He’s got that right.

Williams scored his first points on a dunk with 14:57 to go in the first half after taking a nifty bounce pass from Kevin Parrom. That was a theme all game. The Cats kept feeding him the ball in good position … and then Mr. All-American did the rest.

“I will give our team a lot of credit, because as much as it’s obvious to get him the ball, it’s not that easy when teams move and play zone,” Miller said.

“Our guys are getting better and more comfortable about playing off of him and getting him the ball in scoring position. You look at today versus a couple of weeks ago, and there are a number of guys who are really making good plays in getting Derrick the ball.

“And Derrick is learning and becoming smarter in how to get himself open against these kind of defenses.”

Williams made 8 of 12 shots against Arizona State. He was fouled on half of his made baskets. Overall, ASU was helpless. The Sun Devils fouled him 10 times.

Williams was too strong and persistent for ASU’s smaller frontcourt players. Or he was too athletic for ASU’s bigger, slower posts.

Here is a big guy who leads the Pac-10 in 3-point shooting — a ridiculous 17 of 24, 70.8 percent — but all he needed to do Saturday was plant his feet in the paint.

All of his field goals came from within 15 feet. Six were counted as either layups or dunks.

Williams made 15 of 16 free throw attempts.

“We certainly didn’t do a good job (defending him),” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “And I don’t know anyone who has.”

Yeah. It’s kind of the same old story.

In most games, Arizona is hoping to get merely adequate point guard play, and the Wildcats can’t always be sure where their second scorer is going to come from, but Williams has carried the team to a 15-3 record, 4-1 in the Pac-10.

Williams is averaging 19.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. He is shooting 65.8 percent from the field. He has scored 31 points in two of the past three games.

Some of it is getting repetitive. Miller talked after the game about Williams’ ability to use both hands, about how clever he is around the basket, etc. etc. … the stuff the coach was talking about a couple of weeks ago. And, really, even before that.

“No one loves him more than me,” Miller said, before delivering the one “but” about Williams’ game.

“He has another level he can get to on defense to really help our team. As I’m responsible, and our staff is, to develop him, we want to continue to trust him and believe in him on defense.”

Check back Thursday after Arizona plays at Pac-10 favorite Washington. It could be more of the same: Derrick Williams … Derrick Williams … Derrick Williams …

At least the Wildcats hope it is.

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