Brandon Williams turned in the worst game of his young career Saturday against the Baylor Bears, but his struggles are a little easier to comprehend now.
Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said the freshman banged knees with fellow guard Justin Coleman in practice the day before the game.
“He gave it his best, but he wasn’t 100 percent,” Miller said.
Williams had as many points as turnovers (3) in that game, and missed eight of nine shot attempts in the 58-49 loss. The Wildcats only shot 36 percent as a team, Williams a driving factor in their shooting struggles.
“That hurt our team,” Miller said. “And it’s not fair to Brandon to not at least acknowledge that he wasn’t 100 percent.”
The bad news: Williams injured his right knee, the same one he got surgically repaired in high school to fix a preexisting condition called osteochondritis dissecans. That procedure forced him to miss his entire junior season.
The good news: Williams’ latest ailment is just a contusion, and “he’s not at any further risk, because it’s just a contusion,” Miller said.
“At first we didn’t know how serious it was,” he added. “It has nothing to do with his preexisting condition, but it is that knee that he dealt with in high school, so it tends to swell up if he has a contusion or sometimes through wear and tear. He’s structurally sound, he has no injury, but because it swelled up, we’ve really taken him out of practices.”
And the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game against Montana, too. Dylan Smith got the nod at Williams’ usual two-guard spot. Williams still played 29 minutes, but only 11 in the second half.
“That’s why I didn’t play him as much down the stretch, just to make sure he’s all set,” Miller explained. “But I think each day gets a little bit better.”
The Wildcats can only hope so. Williams’ shooting struggles continued against Montana, going just 1 for 7 from the field and 1 for 4 from 3.
The combo guard, who is second on the team in field goal attempts, is shooting 34 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3 this season. Perhaps better health and a different role can help him, and UA’s offense, get back on track.
“When you’re a freshman, you have a big role, your team needs you to play well, and you have a situation where you’re injured, you can see where his shooting is, and you can lose confidence,” Miller said. “But he’s going to bounce back. I think he’ll be healthier against UC Davis (on Saturday) than he was even tonight.”
Smith only scored two points in 30 minutes in Williams’ stead, missing all four 3s that he took, but Miller and center Chase Jeter praised Smith’s defensive effort and energy.
Miller credited Smith for setting the tone as Arizona turned in its best defensive performance of the season, holding Montana to 28 percent shooting in a 61-42 win.
“Although statistically he didn’t have a big game, he was amazing on defense,” Miller said. “He reminded me so much of Kadeem Allen, taking whoever he guarded out of the game and showing outstanding effort. When you do that, especially as a perimeter player, it’s contagious. Others have to follow because you look at that guy who’s giving everything he has on that side of the ball. Dylan has been on track to be that type of player on this year’s team. I think that’s a role he has to embrace.”