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Brandon Williams ‘playing the best basketball of his career’ amid Arizona’s struggles

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats were dominated in every facet of the game in Los Angeles where they lost by 20+ points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1982-83, but there was at least one bright spot in the form of Brandon Williams.

The freshman guard from nearby Encino, California poured in 19 points, three assists, and three steals while hitting four 3s in Saturday’s 90-69 loss to UCLA.

And while Williams’ numbers were not quite as good Thursday at USC — he had eight points on 13 shots — he did grab four rebounds and notch four assists, while posting a goose egg in the turnover column.

“He played well against USC, he just was in that club where he couldn’t make a shot at USC,” said UA coach Sean Miller. “But his floor game was outstanding. He was involved in a lot of plays and it didn’t show up because we got blown out in the game.

“But I think just his ability to drive it, make shots, pass the ball (was great). Tonight (vs. UCLA) he played a similar floor game except he made shots as well, and he’s playing the best basketball of his career. It’s great to see him come back here to L.A. and really my mind string two very solid games in, especially offensively.”

Williams didn’t think much of it.

“I don’t really care,” he said. “We lost, so it didn’t really matter.”

Ah, but it does.

While this season is looking more and more like a throwaway year for the Wildcats, whose NCAA Tournament hopes are dimming fast, Williams’ play is positioning himself for a bright future in the program.

Arizona is set to add a bevy of talented new faces next season, at least a couple of whom, like Nico Mannion and Josh Green, will assume major roles from the moment they step on campus. That means some of Arizona’s current players will be pushed out of the rotation or, perhaps, the program altogether.

Not Williams. He is proving he can be a starter, and a darn good one, next season when the Wildcats are expected to be much-improved.

That shouldn’t be a total surprise since Williams was such a highly-rated recruit, but there were doubts earlier this season after he posted a .343/.269/.787 shooting line throughout a fairly weak non-conference schedule.

Since then, he is averaging 13.8 points and 3.5 assists in Pac-12 play with a superb .436/.400/.800 shooting line.

“Where Brandon has a struggle right now, like a lot of guys, is just defensively,” Miller said. “Playing against each team represents a new challenge and for a lot of freshmen it’s hard. It’s a big adjustment guarding guys in college at this level, but he’s getting better, he’s got a great attitude and that’s why he’s playing so well on offense.”