After the third of Arizona’s five straight losses arrived on Jan. 31 at ASU, Sean Miller made the sort of prediction a coach probably doesn’t want to come true.
“Part of it is we have to get healthy and that’ll be our best chance to win a game,” he said, referring to injuries that first sidelined center Chase Jeter and then guard Brandon Williams. “But it’s going to be hard for us to win a game with the limitations that we have at the moment.”
He was correct, of course. Arizona has continued to lose, and may lose some more this weekend if Williams remains out with his ongoing knee issues: Both Utah and Colorado will be returning to their high-elevation homes after pulling off sweeps of the Los Angeles schools.
Miller said Monday on his radio show that he hopes to bring back Williams towards the end of the season.
With seven games left in the regular season, Arizona is in a four-way tie for seventh place in the Pac-12 at 5-6, along with Colorado, UCLA and Stanford. Overall, at 14-10 and with a NET rating of 84, the Wildcats are also well outside the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“The thing I worried the most about before we got started this season is an injury to a key player or a couple of injuries,” Miller said. “That’s not the entire story, but the firepower that Brandon Williams is able to bring us, the depth that we have with him versus without him and equally the roles that a couple of players have now that wouldn’t have if he were with us.
“He’s a backup point guard; we can rest Justin Coleman. He’s one of our team’s best shooters. He can score. He can get to the basket, and he has a way to create to get others shots. We miss that right now.
“Couple of weeks ago when we were in L.A. without Chase, we don’t have enough size or depths up front to play a 40-minute game. We have to keep working and do a better job as we approach the next game, the next day, the next week.”
Colorado has been dealing with a shoulder injury to standout point guard McKinley Wright, who is expected to have offseason surgery. But Wright returned after missing a game last month and is still pretty effective: He led the Buffs to their second-ever Pac-12 road sweep last weekend by averaging 16.0 points, 6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in Los Angeles.
After the Buffs beat USC 69-65 on Saturday, Colorado coach Tad Boyle praised his players for a “toughness win down the stretch.”
“We’re getting better,” Boyle told them, in a video CU posted to YouTube. “You can feel it. You can see it. You can sense it. You guys are believing in each other, playing for each other.”
Over in Westwood, the Utes also held a wild celebration after Parker Van Dyke hit a buzzer-beating 25-footer to cap Utah’s comeback from a 22-point deficit to beat UCLA.
“My mind is a little overwhelmed,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said after the game. “But like our friends with the Navy Seals talk about, you are never out of the fight. … We made some plays to start the second half and started just chipping away at that lead. And things just got crazy. I told our team in the timeouts, ‘Don’t count us out.’ ”
Knicks G League team signs PJC
The New York Knicks organization lined up yet another former Arizona guard on Monday when Parker Jackson-Cartwright joined their Westchester G League affiliate.
Kadeem Allen also played for the Westchester Knicks this season before his promotion to New York, while Allonzo Trier signed a two-way deal with the Knicks before this season that technically put him with both the NBA and G League Knicks, although he never played in the G League and has since signed a standard NBA contract.
Jackson-Cartwright went to training camp last October with the Raptors’ G League club in Mississauga, Ontario, but was cut after a week. Raptors 905 GM Chad Sanders said Jackson-Cartwright was still not fully healthy after continuing to deal with a leg injury since last season ended.
As he was dealing with the injury last spring, Jackson-Cartwright said he was considering overseas opportunities and staying upbeat.
“I’m not discouraged or anything,” he said. “I know everyone has their different paths and plans. I’ve just got to be patient.”
Franks earns honors
Not only did Washington State’s Robert Franks earn the Pac-12’s Player of the Week award after leading the Cougars to a road sweep of ASU and UA, but “Robo” also picked up NCAA.com and Naismith Award national player of the week honors.
Franks averaged 32.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in Arizona, while scoring 31 points and hitting 7 of 9 3-pointers against the Wildcats.
He now averages 22.6 points per game, tops in the Pac-12.