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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Team helps ‘Superman’

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats hosted the Washington Huskies in a battle of Pacific 10 Conference basketball leaders Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. A defensive stop highlighted by a Derrick Williams block with 1.8 seconds remaining sealed the 87-86 Arizona win.

Teammates joke that forward Derrick Williams leaves games with 10 seconds to go, runs into some basketball version of a telephone booth and puts on his Superman jersey.

It kind of makes sense.

Two game-defining plays through two NCAA Tournament games would make them think there’s more to it than just clutch play. But the Wildcats have been in the position to win those close games because Williams’ teammates — although who it is depends on the day — step up.

“”We all recognize Derrick (Williams) and his terrific season and what he brings to the table, but just like the other day, when he was out of the game, we played very well,”” said head coach Sean Miller. “”When he was in the game, different players have to play well around him.

“”We’ve had that throughout the season, and I don’t know if we’ve gotten enough credit for having so many contributions from a lot of players. Sometimes we only have one double-figure scorer, but the other part is we have five or six guys on a given night that are capable of being a double-figure scorer.””

Against the Texas Longhorns on Sunday, starting point guard Momo Jones had a poor night, scoring zero points, yet backup Jordin Mayes had the game of his young career, scoring 16.

In addition, Miller repeatedly pulled senior Jamelle Horne from the game after obvious mental breakdowns by the forward.

But the head coach never lost faith in his players during their off-nights, a reason why he’s gained the trust of and gotten the most out of his 10-man rotation.

He knows how to keep their confidence.

On the play of the game, when a five-second count was called on Texas to give Arizona its last-ditch chance to win, it was Horne guarding the inbounds pass, his athleticism and length trusted by Miller despite the earlier mistakes.

Jones was there too, one of the four defenders switching every screen to force the turnover.

“”I though he was going to take me out,”” Jones said of Miller. “”Coach Miller came to me and he said, ‘I believe in you.’ He said, ‘We roll with you this far, we roll with you all year.'””

It goes deeper into the roster as well.

Shooting guard Brendon Lavender fell out of the main group of reserves as the season progressed. With a banged up Kyle Fogg and forward Kevin Parrom spraining his ankle against Texas, Lavender scored eight points — yet another example of Miller’s knack for pushing the right buttons for his players to respond.

Lavender’s second of two 3-pointers gave the Wildcats their first double-digit lead in the first half.

“”It’s a great confidence booster,”” Lavender said. “”With shooters, you just have to keep shooting. With the minutes I get, I want to do my best and play my role, and if I get the chance against Duke to knock down a couple shots, that’s what I’m going to do.””

Looking back, the triple-overtime win at California told the tale of this Arizona basketball team. Williams fouled out in regulation. Other players made the Wildcats look just as good without the future pro.

“”As seen this year, we all can go do stretches where we play our best basketball,”” Jones said. “”That’s why we’re in the Sweet Sixteen. We’re not here because of Derrick, or because of Coach Miller being Coach of the Year. We’re in the Sweet Sixteen as a team.””


Wildcats not starstruck of No. 1 seed Duke

A product of Mesa’s Mountain View High School, Brendon Lavender remembers the Wildcats’ 2001 National Championship game against Duke, the last time Arizona faced the Blue Devils. With his sports-loving great-grandmother, Lavender watched as Arizona fell to now-NBA players Mike Dunleavy, Shane Battier and Chris Duhon.

Then, he might’ve been starstruck.

“”Duke has always been a great team,”” he said. “”I just remember watching Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas going against them. Hopefully it’s a different result in this next game, for us. They’ve had one of the greatest coaches in college.

“”I guess, as a basketball player, you look up to teams with that great of talent.””

But as of now, the Wildcats don’t see themselves being in awe of the Blue Devils. Remember, they said, Arizona has quite a history, too.

“”I think that, no matter who the coach is, or what team you coach,”” Miller said. “”When you play Duke, it’s about one thing: giving them the proper respect that they deserve from the perspective of there not being a harder playing, consistent team, than them.

“”It’s not as if this is a first time thing at Arizona,”” Miller added. “”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. I really believe that.””

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