NCAA Tournament: Williams comes home to play Duke
By Beth Harris
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó The last time Derrick Williams came home to play basketball, things didnít go well for Arizona.
The Wildcats arrived in Los Angeles with a two-game lead in the Pac-10 standings and got swept by Southern California and UCLA. Williams scored a season-low eight points against the Trojans before rebounding with 15 points against the Bruins.
The Wildcats hung on in their final two games to win the leagueís regular season title and Williams was named Pac-10 player of the year.
Now, the sophomore from La Mirada is close to home again, this time for the biggest game of his college career.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (29-7) play the top-seeded Blue Devils (32-4) in the NCAA West Regional on tonight at Honda Center.
Williams was besieged with ticket requests, although heíll only be able to satisfy his family.
ěNot that many people have that much money to spend on a 40-minute game, but a lot of people will be at a pizza place, someplace that has a lot of TVs, gather around and watch the games right there,î he said.
The Wildcats practiced Wednesday at Williamsí old high school in La Mirada, 15 minutes from the Orange County arena.
ěGoing back to my high school brought back a lot of memories,î he said. ěMy senior season we won the league championship. That was the best thing my school has had basketball-wise, first time since ë82 that we had a league championship.î
Another Arizona starter, Kyle Fogg, grew up 10 minutes away in Brea, while reserve Alex Jacobson is from nearby Santa Ana. Jordin Mayes and starter Solomon Hill are both from Los Angeles.
ěItís good to be home, but weíre here for business right now,î Fogg said.
And Arizonaís goal is to knock off the defending national champions, whose .762 winning percentage in the NCAA tournament is the best ever.
ěItís never to your advantage going against them in this tournament,î second-year Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
The Wildcatsí tourney winning percentage of .643 is eighth-best, although their run of 25 consecutive appearances ended last year, when Williams was a freshman and Miller was just starting to remake the program in his vision.
ěWe didnít have a lot of goals other than to be better than we were a year ago and we had a lot of hungry players who had great offseasons that translated from last year to this year,î Miller said.
Giving the Blue Devils a postseason boost is Kyrie Irving, who returned at the start of the tournament after missing 26 games with an injured right toe. He averaged 12.5 points in their first two wins, a blowout of Hampton and a two-pointer against Michigan.
The freshman point guard wonít start Thursday, although coach Mike Krzyzewski said he will play several minutes.
ěHe played significant minutes last week when I thought he was going to play limited minutes, so I mentioned that he will play significant minutes tomorrow,î Krzyzewski said. ěI donít know what the hell that means..î
The Wildcats have prepared for Duke with and without Irving, regarded by many as the Blue Devilsí best player who could have been national freshman of the year had he not gotten hurt eight games into the season. Heís scored in double figures every game heís played.
ěIt changes their whole game because he can speed up the game, heís a very good point guard,î Arizonaís Kevin Parrom said. ěHe makes his team a lot better. He can do it all.î
Arizona and Duke last met in the NCAA tournament in 2001, with Duke winning 82-72 in the title game to claim the third of its four national championships. The Wildcats havenít gone that far since then, while the Blue Devils hoisted the trophy again last year.
WICHITA, Kan. ó As he exited a loud locker room into a jubilant hallway, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall greeted boosters, friends and family by repeating three letters: MSG.
Wichita State clinched a spot in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden by holding off College of Charleston 82-75 on Wednesday night. The Shockers (27-8) were led by seniors, Gabe Blair (16 points) and J.T. Durley (14 points), playing their final home game.
There were emotions for Charleston (26-11) as well. The Cougars trailed by 21 midway through the second half but fought back behind Andrew Goudelock, who scored 23 of his 31 points after halftime, including seven 3-point shots.