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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Crushing Duke to advance to Elite Eight is ‘a hell of a feeling’

ANAHEIM, Calif. — This wasn’t a game. This was Duke.

This was the No. 1 seed Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 and Arizona playing in their bracket.

This was head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s quest to become the all-time winningest coach and Sean Miller just coaching in his bracket.

This was the elite basketball school destined to crash into the region’s other elite basketball school as the Duke-UConn Elite Eight matchup that everybody picked in their brackets.

“”We ended up with a good win by, uhhh — how much did we win by?”” UA guard Brendon Lavender laughed and asked a few reporters in the locker room after the game.

Laughter erupted. Laughter?

Afterward a network television producer asked Lavender to send Ellen DeGeneres a video message thanking her for picking Arizona to win the national championship.

What the heck was happening?

Clearly this wasn’t just a win. This was a win against Duke.

No.

This was dismantling Duke. Arizona embarrassed Duke. Arizona trashed Duke. Arizona left it all on the floor and left you asking, “”Why not us?””

Momo Jones has asked that question so many times it’s not even worth asking anymore. Long after the game, after the interviews, after the uniforms were washed and after the team left the locker room, Jones sat down to finally unravel the tape off his ankles and thoughts off his mind.

“”I can’t even explain the feeling. To be honest with you,”” Jones said, “”it’s a hell of a feeling.””

Only the ripping of tape off his ankles disrupted the silence that ensued after I said, simply: “”40 minutes from a Final Four, huh?””

He paused, smiled and shook his head. The team could’ve been back at the hotel by then but Jones had no urgency to leave a locker room that just produced an Elite Eight berth.

“”You never know what life brings. You struggle, you struggle, you struggle,”” Jones said, “”and all the struggles, this is what it amounts to.

“”Forty minutes away from the Final Four,”” he said, and at that point it all set in. “”Don’t get no better than that.””

The struggles built this win into an emotional exhale. This was for Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton and everybody who endured the 2001 National Championship loss.

This was for Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Nic Wise and everybody who took the blame for Arizona losing its elite status.

This was for national respect.

“”One fan told me, ‘My shirt is getting small from the 1997 championship, I need another one.'”” Derrick Williams said. “”That right there flipped the switch. I want to give everyone what they want.””

Williams did give everyone what they wanted: To watch Duke lose.

No.

To watch Duke suffer. To watch Duke collapse and to watch Duke give up to the point where Lavender couldn’t even recall how many points Arizona beat them by.

“”It’s a dream come true,”” Jones said.

In Anaheim, the happiest place on earth, dreams did come true.

 

— Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary Studies senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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