You already knew the Arizona Wildcats were better with Derrick Williams on the floor.

The ever-grinning sophomore forward proved it again Thursday, with 27 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in Arizona's 83-57 win over New Mexico State at McKale Center.

The question is this: Who should be out there with him?

With UA getting virtually no offensive help from its starting backcourt and struggling early against the Aggies zone, coach Sean Miller did some wholesale testing of his theory that the drop-off from one through five to six through 10 in the Wildcats rotation is slim.

He was proven correct.

The Wildcats trailed their desert neighbors to the east 9-7 just over six minutes into the game when Miller opted to yank all five starters and put in a group that consisted of guards Jordin Mayes and Brendon Lavender, forwards Jesse Perry and Kevin Parrom, and center Kyryl Natyazhko.

Next thing you knew, Arizona (2-0) was up 19-9, with the super subs having outscored the Aggies 12-0.

New Mexico State cut Arizona's lead to single digits several more times, the last with 9:30 to go, but the momentum never swung as wildly again.

"You think back to those (first) five, six, seven minutes, and one of the things that really helped us win tonight really started right there, and that's our bench," Miller said. "Those guys came in and did a great job. Like I've mentioned several times, the strength of our team is that there's not a big difference between the guys who start the game and several of the guys who come off the bench."

So while the starters started 0 for 5 from three-point territory in their first stint on the floor, the reserves quickly responded with two long-range shots: one each from Lavender and Mayes.

After that, Natyazhko hit two short jumpers, and Perry made a 15-footer for a 19-9 UA lead. Virtually from then on, NMSU's intensity never seemed to match Arizona's.

"That five that came in, all of us are basically coming in just to bring energy to the team," forward Kevin Parrom said. "Come in, get rebounds, dive on the floor, do whatever it takes to bring energy."

Of all the reserves, Parrom may have crammed the most activity in. He had five points, six rebounds, two blocks in 17 minutes, and Miller noted that Parrom was involved with two of UA's best plays.

"I thought that was one of Kevin's best games at Arizona," Miller said.

But it was the reserve guards who probably helped in the greatest area of need: Backcourt starters MoMo Jones and Kyle Fogg both went 1 for 7 from the field, and while Fogg had seven assists and Jones five, Miller touched on the difficulty of winning games when the two starting guards shoot that poorly.

That's where Mayes and Lavender came in. Mayes had five points and an assist in 12 minutes, and Miller said again Mayes' playing time may increase. Lavender hit 2 of 4 three point shots, drove the baseline aggressively for a layup, had three assists and pulled down a pair of rebounds.

"He's way more comfortable using his dribble and doing other things," Miller said. "Overall he's improved."

It was the kind of effort that Fogg said he has seen from Lavender and the subs in practice. It just carried over to the game this time.

"Tonight speaks for itself," Fogg said of the reserves' play. "I wasn't hitting anything, but Lav came out and did a great job, hit a lot of shots. Kev also came in and hit some shots."

Overall, thanks to the intensity of the Wildcats' 10-man rotation, the eight guys New Mexico State played gradually wore down.

By the 7:25 mark, Williams already had a double-double and he grabbed his career-high 14th rebound with six minutes to go. Then Williams began rattling off even more crowd-pleasing dunks, among them a reverse slam that gave UA a 65-48 lead and a one-handed jam with 3:54 left that put UA up 72-53.

"He's an NBA player," NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. "He's a first-round pick, and he played like it. He played with so much energy and has such a positive disposition on the floor."

So in the end, while UA's reserves turned the game around, it was Williams who put the exclamation point on the Wildcats' biggest statement of the early season.

"No magic potion here," Miller said. "Derrick Williams was by far the best player on the floor. He was dominant."


Up next

• What: Northern Colorado at Arizona

• When: 3 p.m. Sunday

• TV: Ch. 58 and FSAZ

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