Justin Coleman admitted he was scared when he tumbled to the floor in Maples Pavilion late in Wednesday’s win at Stanford, causing him to land violently on his troublesome left arm.
“(Josh Sharma) caught me off guard with a hard foul and I went down a little bit,” said Coleman, who’s been nursing a dislocated shoulder for two weeks now. “But after that I was all right.”
And, somehow, better than ever.
Three days later, the senior point guard turned in what Arizona coach Sean Miller called Coleman’s best overall game at the UA. Coleman had 13 points and five assists in a rout of Cal, shooting 4 for 7 from the field, 2 for 3 from deep and 3 for 4 from the charity stripe.
It was only Coleman’s second time scoring in double figures since his offensive explosion at the Maui Invitational, when he averaged 20.7 points in three games.
“He really did it on defense, too,” Miller noted.
Coleman, who says he is almost 100 percent healthy, was not surprised by his performance against Cal, crediting the Arizona training staff and equipment manager Brian Brigger for doing all the right things to keep him ready to play.
And there was also no way his injury was going to sideline him.
“When I’m out there I play for my teammates,” Coleman said.
With its floor general at his best, Arizona was also at its best. The Wildcats scored 1.3 points per possession against the Golden Bears, their second-best mark of the season and easily their best in conference play.
“I can’t underscore enough how impressive it is to watch him navigate through a dislocation of the shoulder, and think about playing four minutes against Colorado just because he’s just playing for the win,” Miller said.
“You hear coaches sometimes refer to players that play for each other, that they really care about their teammates. The reason that Justin’s teammates named him captain was that type of quality, and that set the tone for a lot for us. And then watching him play even more and play well against Utah and then move into this week, he’s hitting his stride there’s no doubt about it.”
Coleman also had nine points and four assists against Stanford before banging up his shoulder in the final minute. In all, he averaged 11 points and 4.5 assists in the Bay Area, both figures above his season averages, his aggressiveness notably higher than before.
Knowing how important Coleman is to Arizona and its Pac-12 championship aspirations, Miller held a film session with the senior point guard on Monday, highlighting all the things he did well in Northern California.
“More of the same is what our message is to him,” Miller said. “But Justin is confident in himself and it’s great to have a guard like that out there because when your point guard is confident and playing with confidence, that has a way of becoming contagious.”