Alex Jacobson “helps us with foul trouble, gives us a bigger presence and knows what to do …,” coach Sean Miller says. Greg Bryan / Arizona Daily Star file 2009

The way Derrick Williams has been playing for the Arizona Wildcats this season, he could probably keep scoring just fine without a right hand, much less a right pinkie.

Actually, he already has scored with his left hand. Often.

Still, because Williams' banged-up pinkie is, in fact, Derrick Williams' pinkie, the question was inevitable.

How is he?

"He's working his way through it," UA coach Sean Miller said Friday. "I think he's sore, but hopefully he'll make progress."

The Wildcats' practices are closed, but Miller said beforehand he expected Williams would practice Friday and be able to play without trouble today against USC, after he tweaked the outside of the pinkie during the UA's 85-74 win over UCLA on Thursday.

Nor should the injury, on Williams' most-often used hand, affect his shooting touch, Miller said.

"Hope not," Miller said, smiling. 

Lucky catch?

On one hand, USC's presence could serve as a reminder that Miller received a major head start in his hastily assembled 2009 spring recruiting class.

His three top scorers - Williams, Solomon Hill and MoMo Jones - joined that class after all committed to the Trojans before former coach Tim Floyd interviewed for the UA job and later resigned.

Then again, the way Miller views it, all three were pulled in with considerable effort.

"The one thing that I know, way more than anyone else, is those three players could have gone to any school in the country, any school," Miller said. "And we had no head start. We entered the race at the same starting point as every other school who wanted them, and believe me when I tell you, there were quite a few, and we won."

One reason why the UA landed all three was because Miller had plenty of playing time to offer, having lost Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger to the NBA within weeks of taking the job.

"That's also a part of it," Miller said. "Each one of them looked at Arizona as a unique opportunity, because every player wants to impact the program right away, and they certainly saw that here. That was to our disadvantage and it's also to our advantage."

Trojan funnel

As they did Thursday with UCLA's Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson, the Wildcats will be facing two of the Pac-10's bigger and most productive post duos. This time it will be against USC's Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson.

The difference is that, defensively, the Trojans will try to maximize their presence by funneling the Wildcats toward them.

"With the way they position their bodies and push you to the baseline or the paint, they try to take away the middle of the floor," said UA associate head coach Archie Miller, who scouted the Trojans. "It takes some getting used to. It's more of an NBA type of deal."

USC coach Kevin O'Neill has incorporated influences from his NBA days, though KO said his defensive attack has a lot to do with his players.

"Our big guys aren't agile or fast enough to blitz pick and rolls and all that," O'Neill said. "So we push everything to the baseline, where they are. It is a personnel thing. We've done that two years in a row."

The Trojans are second in the Pac-10 in conference games in scoring defense (62.5 points) and field-goal percentage defense (40.0), while Vucevic averages a block per game and is the league's top rebounder (10.9) in Pac-10 games.

Tree sighting

UA reserve center Alex Jacobson made it off the bench for the first time in more than seven weeks Thursday, though Miller indicated it is possible he will be used again.

"Alex helps us with foul trouble, gives us a bigger presence, and knows what to do when he's out there," Miller said.

"Sometimes in a brief window of time like (Thursday) night, he makes a hustle play. That can be the difference."



• Who: USC at Arizona

• When: 5:30 p.m.

• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)