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Williams boosting Wildcats with late-game heroics
But Williams wasn’t done saving the day.
In the NCAA’s third round on Sunday, Williams struggled all day against Texas’ long-armed front line, unable to find any gaps or use his power to get to the rim. Williams‘ teammates picked up the slack to keep it close, giving their closer another shot to come through at the end.
Williams failed on one attempt on a shot in the lane _ he thought he got fouled _ but got a second chance when Texas was called for 5-second inbound violation along the baseline.
Arizona got the ball into Williams, who put his head down and charged toward the basket. He was bumped hard by former AAU teammate Jordan Hamilton and blindly flung the ball toward the basket as he tried to lighten the impact with the floor. The ball went in and Williams hit the free throw, sending Arizona to the next round.
“If we would have lost the game, I would have taken it really hard on myself knowing that I didn’t have a great game,” Williams said. “A lot of people on my team feed off of me.”
Williams has fed Arizona back into the NCAA’s round of 16 for a matchup against defending national champion Duke on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.
Two of college basketball’s pre-eminent programs, Duke and Arizona met in the 2001 national title game, which the Blue Devils won by 10.
Duke kept its place among the elite, getting to the round of 16 seven times, including the 2004 Final Four and last year’s title after holding off upstart Butler.
Arizona went into a mini-tailspin caused by Lute Olson’s leave of absence then retirement, missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 26 years last season.
This would seem to be a matchup of an established program against one that’s rebuilding, but the Wildcats aren’t looking at it that way. Not with the history they’ve had.
“It’s not as if this is a first-time thing at Arizona,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Regardless of our current team’s status, the history of our program, we’re at a place that many Arizona teams have been at in the past, and that helps.”
So does having a closer such as Derrick Williams.
By David A. Clarke Jr.
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