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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Heart of a champion

Arizona whited out some of the bad memories of the last four years and showed the heart of a Pacific 10 Conference champion in McKale Center on Saturday.

The fans acknowledged the past when Lute Olson appeared during the pre-game presentation, but it was current head coach Sean Miller that began to write his own legacy after beating Washington.

Derrick Williams’ game-saving block inched the Wildcats closer to a Pac-10 title and likely into the national top-10.

Arizona didn’t play a perfect game but made plays when it had to.

“”We made mistakes but in the end we won because of our effort, our toughness and our resiliency,”” Miller said.

Williams was the chief of resiliency.

With 4:12 to go in the game, the fans at McKale Center saw something that they’d probably never though they would ever see.

Washington’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning caught a low post pass, spun off the smaller Kyle Fogg and headed to the rim.

But coming from the opposite side of the paint was Williams, who met Bryan-Amaning there, but it was too late.

The star forward, who’s known for putting opposing players on posters, got posterized in front 14,619 fans, leaving most of the crowd in shock.

This was the perfect time for Williams, who was outplayed by the Huskies’ big-man at certain stretches in the second half, to mail it in and put his tail between his legs in embarrassment.

While Bryan-Amaning sat on the ground staring down Williams following the dunk, Williams simply grabbed the ball from the referee, as if nothing happened, and took it upon himself to respond.

In the last few minutes of the game, the star forward turned embarrassment into glory, hitting a 3 from in front of Arizona’s bench to give the Wildcats an 85-84 lead with 2:23 remaining and then made a key block to seal the win.

It was the story of the game for the Wildcats.

When Washington benefited from Arizona’s miscues, the Wildcats responded by making up for it.

In the first half, Fogg committed a bad foul on UW’s guard Isaiah Thomas as he took a 3,  but 30 seconds later the junior responded with a four-point play.

When point guard Momo Jones turned the ball over with six minutes remaining in the game and Washington up 74-71, Huskies guard Venoy Overton appeared to have an easy breakaway layup. Instead, Kevin Parrom swatted the ball away, preventing Washington from going up five points.

“”Kevin Parrom, I don’t know how many shots he ran down and blocked or tried to,”” Miller said. “”You’re just proud of the kids’ effort when they play like that.””

All game long, Parrom did his best LeBron James impersonation in transition defense, chasing down Washington players on several occasions to prevent fast-break points.

The types of plays Parrom made could describe Arizona’s play in a nutshell.

“”Our victory was centered on just rebounding and making hard plays, stepping up and making big plays, not giving in,”” Miller said.

While the team showed the strength to overcome adversity, it all came down to Williams.

“”Derrick Williams is just such a great player,”” Miller said. “”The thing about Arizona is that we have such a spectacular tradition of winning teams, that everybody’s seen this before. If you really look at the history of individual players having great seasons, maybe I’m speaking out of turn, I think you’d probably have to put Derrick’s season to this point up there with some of the great ones.””

As Williams stood at mid-court finishing his post game interview, the crowd that stood around began to chant “”one more year,”” and after an electrifying environment at McKale on Saturday, it made the future pro at least think about it.

“”You know with games like that, it makes me want to stay,”” Williams said. “”I came in with four other guys and that’s all I can say. We’ll see after this season.””

— Vincent Balistreri is a communication senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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