As the Arizona Wildcats clung to Thursday night's victory against Stanford, their best scorer was stranded on the bench.
Forward Derrick Williams sat down with 2:11 remaining and did not return. He walked with a slight limp afterward but laughed it off.
"Just being on the bench for a little while, my knees got stiff," he said. "I'm fine."
Asked if there was something wrong with his freshman forward, coach Sean Miller also tried a shot at humor.
"I hope not," he said.
The real reason, Miller said, was that the Wildcats wanted to use guards to switch screens to help defend Stanford's shooters late in the game.
"I don't know if it worked," he said, "but that's what we were trying to do."
It's a statement in itself. Four months ago, UA fans couldn't spell Williams' first name.
Now, any sign of trouble causes a bit of panic.
Almost halfway through the conference season, Williams is that important.
The forward led all Wildcats players with 23 points Thursday, marking the fourth straight time he has topped 20 points.
The UA is 3-1 in those games; the loss came at the buzzer at Oregon State.
Williams' 16 points per game is just better than guard Nic Wise's 15.3 for tops on the team.
"I have a hard time believing there are many freshmen in basketball who are better than Derrick," Miller said, "or who are impacting their team as much as he is."
Williams made 8 of 9 free throws. Miller said he's "really settled in" at the free-throw line after "struggling" earlier this season.
Williams even made a three-pointer - his second of the season - about 90 seconds into the second half.
"He's getting better," Miller said. "I think he's that occasional wide open shot, especially with time and score (being appropriate). It's a good shot for him.
"He's really an amazing player right now for us."
Asked about the three-pointer, Williams laughed that he "had that."
Teammate Kyle Fogg laughed along before delivering a punch line.
"After all those bricks in practice," Fogg said, and the two smiled. After three straight wins, everything's funny.
Lavender shows his shooting prowess
The Wildcats have held 63 practices, keeping statistics each time.
Sophomore wing Brendon Lavender leads the team, in practice, in three-point shooting.
"It's just translating that into a game," Miller said. "Sometimes you hit a couple in a game, and it really takes the pressure off you."
That happened Thursday night, when Lavender made a three-pointer with 3:47 to play in the first half. On the next possession, 25 seconds later, he did it again.
Lavender made 2 of 5 shots in eight minutes, finishing with six. His best career and season scoring total came Nov. 24, when he scored 16 against Colorado.
But the Mesa Mountain View High School grad has been less of a factor in conference play, averaging 1.3 points per game in 11.1 minutes entering Thurday's matchup.
"We're gonna stay with Brendon," Miller said.
• Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said he "couldn't tell you" why he was assessed a technical foul in the second half.
"It's a game," he said. "You get fired up, and you're fighting for your guys. It was a well-reffed and well-played game."
• Miller praised freshman guard MoMo Jones, who had four assists and two turnovers in 12 minutes, for improving his willingness to pass instead of taking a poor shot.
However, Miller said that a bad Jones inbounds pass with about 11 seconds left was not acceptable.
"I still find it hard to believe that he passed to Stanford on the last inbound," he said.
• Fogg said that, against Landry Fields and Jeremy Green, the Wildcats wanted to "make sure we contain the other three guys on the court." Mission accomplished. While the two combined for 56 points, the others scored 12 on 4-of-15 shooting.