Williams boosting Wildcats with late-game heroics
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 5:56 AM
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Derrick Williams felt the contact and himself going down at an awkward angle, so he flipped the ball toward the basket and braced for the fall. The ball somehow went in, he made the free throw and Arizona had sealed an NCAA tournament victory.
Two days before, Williams did it at the other end of the court. Coming off his man in the closing seconds, he reached out and swatted away a potential game-tying shot, preserving Arizona's first victory in its return to the tournament.
A 6-foot-8 star when the game is on the line, Williams has become the Wildcats' version of a closer and has taken them further into the tournament than anyone - including themselves - thought was possible.
"My teammates look for me at the end of the games to seal the victory," Williams said. "That's what I do."
He sure does.
Williams had a knack for coming through in the clutch during the regular season, often by becoming more aggressive in the second half whenever he had a quiet first or the game was close.
The Pac-10's player of the year had his - and his team's signature moment - late in the season, when, with the Wildcats up one against Washington, he swooped across the lane and windmilled Darnell Gant's shot into the student section in the closing seconds.
He added a little panache by tipping the ensuing inbound pass away to secure the victory, then found himself at the bottom of a pile of Wildcats at midcourt.
Plays such as that helped Arizona get back into the NCAA tournament after having its 25-year run end the previous season.
Williams then raised his big-play game once the Wildcats got into the tournament.
The first came in Arizona's NCAA opener against Memphis.
The Wildcats appeared to be in control after Lamont Jones hit two free throws to put them up with 7.4 seconds left, but Memphis' Wesley Weatherspoon grabbed an offensive rebound after teammate Joe Jackson made one free throw and intentionally missed the second.