STANFORD, Calif. - Their rhythm was thrown off by fouls and unconventional defenses, and their star player's sprained pinkie may be more of an issue than anybody knew.
But the Arizona Wildcats still managed to get past Stanford 78-69 Thursday at Maples Pavilion to take over sole possession of first place in the Pac-10.
The win moved 21st-ranked Arizona to 19-4 overall and 8-2 in the Pac-10, which put the Wildcats alone in first after Washington dropped to 7-3 with a stunning 68-56 loss at Oregon State on Thursday.
"That's great," UA forward Jesse Perry said, when told of the Huskies' loss. "Sorry for them, but that's good for us."
Stanford dropped to 11-10 and 4-6, having given up more points to the Wildcats than it had against any other Pac-10 team this season.
Arizona managed to score the 78 by still getting 21 from Williams, who managed to shoot 8 of 14 from the field, often with his uninjured left hand, and contributions from a strong supporting cast that included Perry and his 12 points and five rebounds, and MoMo Jones' 15 points.
It also helped that Arizona turned the ball over just 10 times and made 5 of 7 three-point attempts in the first half against the normally stingy Stanford defense.
"They're hard to score on," UA coach Sean Miller said. "There's a lot of people who struggle against them. We had a very good offensive first half. It was such a huge difference when we're only turning the ball over 10 times. If we can have progress in that area, that's what we're always talking about - cutting down on our turnovers - and we did that."
Before Thursday's game, which Arizona took control of with a late 8-1 run, Miller also talked about support. He knew Williams still wouldn't be quite his normal self after spraining his pinkie against UCLA a week earlier and playing with it against USC last Saturday.
Perry received the message, scoring the first basket of the game and converting a three-point play to tie the game at 45 during a critical 9-0 UA run that erased a miserable start to the second half.
Perry finished with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting and had a blocked shot.
"We knew (Williams') left hand is hurting real bad right now, and we needed some guys to step up and make big plays," Perry said. "That's what I tried to come in and do."
That's also what Jones wound up doing. Although he had only one assist and two turnovers against what he called a "weird" defense that had players cutting under ball screens and other unconventional moves, Jones managed to hit 4 of 7 from the field and made all seven of his free throws.
Saving his best efforts after he was taken to the floor by Stanford's Aaron Bright in the second half, Jones also sank all four free throws he took in the final 1:11, helping seal the victory.
"It was tough but somehow, some way, we came out with our game plan and did what we had to do," Jones said.
Williams also hit a pair of key free throws with 1:23 left, having noticeably grimaced after committing his fourth foul with the right hand two minutes earlier.
"I'm going to have to fight through pain, and Coach let me know that," Williams said. "The biggest adjustment is in rebounding, when you go up with two hands. There was rebounds I should have gotten."
Miller said there was "no doubt" Williams also would have made two field goals he missed early in the second half, when the Wildcats went scoreless for the first 5:15 after halftime.
During that shaky period for the Wildcats, Stanford climbed back from a 39-33 halftime deficit to take a 41-40 lead.
"He's playing with a bandaged hand, and it will get better, but right now it's hard," Miller said. "It's going to be hard on this whole trip. … He just can't let the fact that he missed those affect his defense and those types of things."
But the Wildcats used the 9-0 run to take a 49-45 lead with 12 minutes to go and never trailed the rest of the way.
Arizona took control of the game in the final minutes with an 8-1 run that gave them a 72-64 lead with 1:11 to go. The Wildcats hung on from there even though Williams fouled out with 54 seconds left.
Now they just have to find enough energy - and pain tolerance from Williams - to survive a Saturday game at California, which lost by only two points to the Wildcats at McKale Center a month ago.
Even from their new vantage point of first place, they know it won't be easy.
"It's cool about being in first place, but that can disappear any time," Perry said. "All we can do is keep on winning."
• Who: Arizona at California
• When: 6 p.m. Saturday
• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM