Arizona coach Sean Miller and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar spent this week trading flattery about each other’s star player.
In one corner, you have the Wildcats’ Derrick Williams. A 6-8 soph-o-more (must be said in Keith Jackson’s announcing voice) from La Mirada, Calif. Too strong for smaller defenders. Too quick for bigger defenders. Inside. Outside. Left hand. Right hand. A professor at Dunk U.
In the other corner, you have the Huskies’ Isaiah Thomas. A 5-9 junior from Tacoma, Wash. A complete guard. Quick. Big-time scorer. Making drive-and-dish an art form. Had 27 points and 13 assists vs. Cal last week, a ridiculous combination of stats.
The stars will align in Hec Edmundson Pavilion tonight (8:30 p.m. Tucson time, Fox Sports Net).
First place in the Pac-10 on the line.
So, it’s not as if Williams and Thomas will guard each other. Their different sizes and different roles makes a stat comparison less than completely instructive. But here it is anyway:
PPG: 19.7 (second in Pac-10)
RPG: 7.3 (seventh)
Field goal percentage: 65.8 (second)
3-point shooting: 17 of 24, 70.8 percent
PPG: 16.5 (third in Pac-10)
APG: 5.4 (first)
Field goal percentage: 45.7
3-point shooting: 29 of 81, 35.8 percent
Which player do you like better for Pac-10 Player of the Year?
Or perhaps you prefer Washington State guard Klay Thompson, who is averaging a league-high 22.9 points to go along with 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 assists. He leads the league in free throw shooting (85 percent), is fifth in 3-point percentage (44.1) and is first in made 3-pointers (3.1 per game).
Arizona will deal with him Saturday.
(It should also be noted that USC big man Nikola Vucevic is averaging a double-double with 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.)
For tonight, though, it’s all about the adulation for Williams and Thomas.
Romar on Williams (via the podcast from TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network partner Matt Minkus and Victor Rodriguez):
“He’s somewhat of a chameleon when you guard him down low. He’ll step outside now. He shoots 71 percent from the 3-point line, or something like that. If you put a quicker guy on him, because he’s so versatile, he can overpower him. He can just turn into something that you’re not on defense. So it’s a very difficult cover right now. He’s so quick, so strong and powerful … he’s multidimensional.”
Miller on Thomas: “I don’t think Isaiah Thomas right now is getting nearly the credit he deserves nationally for being among the elite point guards in the country. … His performance the other night at Cal was one of the best performances that I’ve seen a point guard ever have. … Just looking at how he plays, it’s that ultimate compliment you pay a player like him in that he makes the game a lot easier for his teammates.”