Hoops: Williams out with a sprained MCL

UT guard <B>Fredie Williams</B> will miss approximately six weeks due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee suffered in the second half of the Horns' exhibition game win over EA Sports Tuesday night.

"Testing revealed a sprained MCL in Fredie's left knee but was inconclusive as to any ACL damage," athletic trainer Brian Farr said. "He will undergo further testing tomorrow (Thursday) to determine if there is an injury to the ACL." If Williams' suffered an ACL tear, he could miss the entire 2001-02 season. Otherwise he will be out until approximately the start of conference play in January, or about half of the regular season.

In typical fashion, the senior's tenacious defense created a turnover on the play that resulted in the knee injury. Coach Rick Barnes said Tuesday night he had planned on Williams and Royal Ivey to be this Texas team's defensive stoppers on the perimeter. Along with increasing Ivey's role in that area, Williams' absence will also force Ivey to play the point as well as the two guard spot.

Williams' ability to penetrate the lane and score or create opportunities for others will also be missed. That burden will now fall to freshman T.J. Ford and Ivey. Late in Tuesday's game, after Williams had been taken to the lockerroom, Ivey did a great job driving to the bucket, taking advantage of space in the EA zone with three driving scores as the Horns pulled away.

Barnes said juco transfer guard Terrell Ross could eventually be part of the point guard rotation as well. At 6-3, 190, Ross would present opposing teams with a more physical match-up and give the Texas coach a big line-up alternative. Ross, though, missed a lot of preseason work because of a foot injury and isn't yet ready to contribute anything more than a minute or two of quality court time in one stretch.

This Longhorn team is the deepest that Barnes has had in his four years at Texas, but the loss of starter Williams will certainly affect the team's level of play. And it makes the Horns task this Saturday night even more daunting. Arizona, fresh off upset wins over top five teams Maryland and Florida and with a sparkling new No. 12 national ranking, visits the Erwin Center to take on No. 22 Texas.

"I can't see how people can't say they are the best team in college basketball right now," Barnes said after watching the Wildcats' exploits last weekend in New York. "Jason Gardner is terrific, they have great balance, and for as many young players as they have, their execution in late game situations has been the most impressive thing about them."

Barnes, though, also likes what he's seen so far from his team. "I like this team a lot," the head coach said. "I like the way we're playing."

"Where we've really improved this year is spacing," he added. "That allows for penetration, for better driving and it allows the post guys more room to operate. The guys like the (up-tempo) way we're playing. It's not really complicated and they get to run the floor."

Which should make for exciting hoops in the Erwin Center Saturday, even with sparkplug Williams in street clothes.

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