Published on March 25th, 2011 | by Mark Travis, Founder0
Derrick Williams Lifts Arizona Over Duke
In an upset that I called in my Sweet Sixteen picks post, the Arizona Wildcats took down the Duke Blue Devils to advance to the Elite Eight. Though I had Arizona winning, I didn’t envision a 93-77 blowout, which is exactly what the Wildcats delivered. They withstood Duke’s first half offense thanks to a three-point barrage from superstar Derrick Williams and the enter team followed suit in the second half. Arizona got key stops, forced turnovers and other players stepped up and made big shots to keep increasing their lead.
Lamont Jones, who is affectionately known as Momo Jones, had some big time baskets and Jamelle Horne had a sick poster jam on Kyle Singer to put the game fully in Arizona’s control. The emotion, the energy and the excitement that the Wildcats played with gave them the feeling of an underdog but they were just the better team in this contest and their performance against the second half against Duke’s defense proved that.
The story of this game was clearly Derrick Williams and his unbelievable play. After struggling a bit with Texas’ athleticism in the Round of 32 but Duke’s immobile posts were unable to contain Williams on the glass and on the wing, which is where he truly exerted his dominance. Williams had 25 points in the first half of this game, knocking down four of his five first half three’s – one of which was a pull-up three from NBA range with a seven footer in his face to lower Arizona’s deficit to six at the break.
Williams finished with 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, five three’s, 13 rebounds and two monster dunks. His stroke looked pure, he made some great moves on the block, he made a living on the glass just outworking the Duke big men, he broke the Duke press with his dribble and he moved the ball well when his teammates started getting into the flow of the game. It’s never a good idea to overrate a player’s performance in one tournament game when evaluating their NBA prospects but based on his play throughout the entire and now a humongous game on the biggest stage he’s been on in his life, I’m confident in saying Williams in #1 pick material.
Here is what I had to say about Williams in my column on the top seven prospects in the 2011 NBA Draft:
Williams is going to be a very valuable asset to whatever team drafts him because of his extreme versatility. While Perry and Terrence Jones are in the point forward role, which is one made for versatile players, Williams takes it a step further. He has played both small and power forward at Arizona and he’s been effective at both positions. He’s done his work on the block to score and he’s shot a potentially record setting 63% from three-point range. Offensively, he can spread the floor – he’s hit 23 of his 57 jumpshots this season, which works out to the best percentage in the nation this season – and he can do work in the post. In that regard, he reminds you of Rasheed Wallace, albiet five inches shorter.
Defensively, Williams has also impressed, especially as a post defender. He’ll definitely need to add a bit of size to defend the likes of NBA power forwards on the block but in college he’s done an excellent job of establishing position on his man and has used his nimble feet and active hands to wreak havoc. Williams is a smart defender, and it’s those kinds of players that tend to make the transition from college to the pro’s a bit more smoothly. Instead of being a dominant shot blocker that relies on his athleticism on a thief at point guard that abuses lesser guards, Williams has grasped the nuances of the game and his defensive technique is solid for a sophomore in college.
Williams will need to become a better passer out of the post if he ends up playing the undersized power forward role in the NBA permanently and his mid-range game is not at the same level as his three-point shooting. Other than that, Williams looks like a very solid NBA prospect that can contribute at either forward position and could wind up being a much better version of Jeff Green – undersized power forward that spends some time at the three and hits open three’s.
Williams has proven he has the bravado to be a star at the NBA level and his play in this game made it clear that this kid is a special talent. The only question for Williams left to answer is what position he will play at the next level but that’s not so much as a problem as it as a decision that whatever team that drafts him will have to make.
The other lottery talent in this game was Kyrie Irving. The Duke guard came off the bench and was the only Blue Devil player to perform at a decent level. That being said, I think we saw in this game that Coach K made a fatal flaw to allow Irving back this season. Nolan Smith had what is easily his worst game of the season against Arizona, missing 11 of his 14 shots while scoring just eight points and committing six turnovers. Smith was in the conversation for National Player of the Year for the majority of the season but instead of letting his team continue with the same chemistry that had developed over the course of the season without Irving in the line-up, Coach K inserted Irving back into his rotation and Smith and the team’s play suffered as a result.
If I were Smith, I’d be pretty angry at Coach K right now. After being a complementary piece last season, Smith emerged into a star this season but Coach K robbed him of his shot to lead Duke back to the National Championship game. Instead, Irving was given the ball and allowed to run the offense while Smith worked off the ball, which is something that was clearly uncomfortable for him and completely negated his abilities as a ball-handler, penetrator and creator.
Arizona took advantage of Smith’s worst game of the year and I think even had Smith had a good game, the Wildcats’ second half explosion would have been enough to propel them to victory. The Wildcats will now face the Connecticut Huskies in the Elite Eight. Here are my thoughts on the other games that took place last night:
- When Kemba Walker was taken down by a San Diego State player that was taunting him, a spark was lite underneath the Huskies and Walker went on to dominate the game. Not Derrick Williams dominant, but close. Walker finished with 36 points with some huge three’s late in the game. When San Diego State got the Husky lead down to one with under two minutes to go, it was Jeremy Lamb that hit the dagger triple off of an offensive rebound/tap back and the Aztecs couldn’t recover. San Diego State looked poised to win this game before that mix-up with Walker which not only mad Kemba mad but also allowed UCONN a chance to put points on the board because of a technical foul that was called. Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas had good games but they needed great ones to overcome the Huskies, especially with an angry Walker propelling UCONN in the fourth quarter.
- The Florida Gators put an end to Jimmer Fredette‘s exciting college career with an overtime win over BYU. The Gators got the best game of Alex Tyus’ career in this one as he was active on the glass all night against the Cougars’ thin frontline and a monster on the roll and basket cuts. Tyus finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and an amazing chasedown block that displayed his hustle and energy. Chandler Parsons tried to put BYU away several times in the second half when the Gators had the lead at five and seemingly needed one more basket to win it but he missed seven of his three-point attempts. That being said, Parsons connected on a bomb in overtime to put the game away for good. Jimmer Fredette finished his career on a sour note, missing 12 of his 15 three-pointers. He had a couple heroic three’s that went down but his shot selection was questionable and his defense was nonexistent when Florida did attack him. The debate about how he will play in the pro’s will rage on for a while now that his college games aren’t on to distract us.
- Butler nearly gave their game against Wisconsin away in the final minutes as the Badgers cut a 20-point second half lead to four thanks to a late Jordan Taylor three but they were able to hold on to pull off the upset. Matt Howard had 20 and 12 in the win and Shelvin Mack had the dagger jumper to put the game away late even though Wisconsin never should have been that close. It’s hard to root against Brad Stevens at this point, who is emerging as one of the best coaches in the nation.