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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Eight Feels Great

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Wildcats mens basketball team took on the Duke Blue Devils Thursday, March 24, 2011, in a NCAA West Regional game in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Wildcats advance to the Elite 8 with a 93-77 win.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team took on the Duke Blue Devils Thursday, March 24, 2011, in a NCAA West Regional game in the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Wildcats advance to the Elite 8 with a 93-77 win.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Arizona men’s basketball team played with the mindset that every single one of 17,890 fans in Anaheim’s Honda Center expected the Wildcats to lose on Thursday.

So a 93-77 victory by No. 5 seed Arizona — not No. 1 seed and defending national champion Duke — sent shock waves throughout college basketball, locking the Wildcats into a Saturday game against the No. 3 seed UConn Huskies.

But those shock waves weren’t felt in the Arizona locker room. The Wildcats weren’t surprised.

“”A lot of people counted us out,”” said point guard Momo Jones, who scored 16 points and tallied six assists. “”I think the only people who didn’t count us out were the people at this university, the people in this locker room. Critics, analysts, people on the streets, people in Vegas betting on games, they counted us out.””

Led by a monstrous 25-point first half, UA forward Derrick Williams carried the Wildcats with 32 points in the game, tying the Arizona (30-7) school record for points in an NCAA Tournament game.

Opening the second half down by only six, Williams’ teammates stepped up. Jones scored 14 points and had three assists in the second half while guard Kyle Fogg limited Duke’s national player of the year candidate Nolan Smith to a horrendous 3-for-14 shooting night and six turnovers.

“”He’s a great all-around player, can do it all,”” Fogg said. “”I really took it upon myself to do my best on him. Even before the game, last night, I tried watching a lot of film on him to see what ways he scores. Just try to take away something. Players like that, you can’t completely shut them down.””

Trailing by one point at 19-18 halfway through the first half, Arizona allowed Duke (32-5) to go on a 12-2 run over the following four minutes, giving the Blue Devils their largest lead of the game.

Not surprisingly, the Wildcats would climb back on the shoulders of Williams, who was too skillful on the perimeter for Duke big men Mason and Miles Plumlee, but too big for small forward Kyle Singler to handle inside.

A 35-27 lead by Duke was cut after a drive and kick by Jones to Williams ended with the forward connecting on a 3-pointer. He would hit another on the next possession and was 5-for-6 from long range in the first half, hitting one before the buzzer to reel in the Blue Devils’ to a 44-38 halftime lead.

“”There’s Derrick Williams for you,”” Fogg said. “”It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve seen, ever.””

It wasn’t enough to stay with the Blue Devils, however. Four of their starters had two fouls coming out of the locker room.

Singler and freshman point guard Kyrie Irving combined to score 25 of Duke’s first 31 points, but outside those two Blue Devils, no other player scored in double figures. Singler finished with 18 and Irving tallied a Duke-high 28.

Arizona rallied in the second half behind Jones, who penetrated and drew the weak side defense to allow forward Jesse Perry to slip underneath the basket for a lay-in that cut Duke’s lead to one, 48-47, with 17:09 on the clock.

A Jones fastbreak pull-up jumper tied the game at 53 with less than 16 minutes to play, and his free throws on a push during the next possession gave Arizona its first lead since its 3-2 advantage.

From there, the 10-11 deep Wildcats wore on Duke with their attacking style.

“”When you got to pick up full court, over and over and over again, they were kind of getting desperate to get stops,”” said forward Jamelle Horne. “”Once we saw that, we kind of spread the floor out and got a lot of open shots.””

Down 53-47 at one point, the Wildcats went on a 19-2 run, over a span of 4:30, a period in which Williams only scored two points. Duke would never threaten again, though it’s to the credit of a ceaseless Arizona aggressiveness.

“”Keep attacking or be attacked,”” Horne said. “”(ESPN commentator) Skip Bayless said we were going to lose, I could say a bunch of TV shows (said the same thing).

“”They can throw that away and eat their words today.””

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