Arizona’s Derrick Williams has won games with his offense. With his right hand, left hand, inside, outside, from the foul line, on the glass.
Add, now, with one shining moment of defense.
On ESPN, in the biggest game of coach Sean Miller’s two seasons with the Wildcats, with Arizona protecting the Pac-10 lead and aiming for a top 10 national ranking, Derrick Williams used his wrapped right hand to swat a potential game-winning shot out of bounds in the final second.
A walk-off block.
That block of Darnell Gant’s short jumper from the right side preserved 12th-ranked Arizona’s 87-86 victory over Washington at McKale Center. The white-clad crowd of 14,619 went wild as the final 0.2 seconds ticked off after a final in-bounds pass, and the Wildcats buried Williams under a celebration pile, with trainer Justin Kokoskie rushing over to hold Williams’ hand — still wrapped to protect what has been called a finger injury — away from the mass of humanity.
“I knew he was going up, so I just tried to block it, and I did,” said Williams, who came across the lane to block the shot as Gant was guarded by Jamelle Horne.
“Good thing it wasn’t goaltending. I believe if we were at Washington, they have called it goaltending. Good thing we were at home.”
Good thing Arizona has Williams. He had 26 points, 11 rebounds and the play of the game. That it came in a nationally televised thriller is just going to add to his still-climbing reputation.
“Derrick Williams was obviously a monster,” said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar.
Somewhere right around the end of the game, Seth Davis of CBS and Sports Illustrated tweeted: “If you want to argue Derrick Williams is the best pro prospect in college hoops, I won’t put up a fight. Still tons of room to get better.”
No argument here, on either point. In fact the only argument now might be how to finish this sentence: “Derrick Williams is the best Arizona forward since …”
It’s time to make to put those two in the same sentence — at least for one season. Elliott had the superb four-year career. Williams is just a sophomore. Elliott was the classic wing forward, lean and athletic. Williams is 6-8, 241 pounds and mostly plays in the post.
But the trait Williams shares with Elliott is this: If he gets the ball, no matter where, he is basically unstoppable.
“The thing about Arizona is that we have such a spectacular tradition of winning teams and championships,” Miller said.
“But I will tell you, if you look at the individual history of playing having great seasons — maybe I’m speaking out of turn — you would probably have to put Derrick’s season to this point up there with some of the great ones.
“He’s been a spectacular player for us.”
And it wasn’t like this was Williams’ best game or anything.
As Miller noted, Williams had some uncharacteristic turnovers (credited with seven). He missed some shots near the basket that he usually makes.
But he made both of his 3-point attempts, including a key shot with 2:24 to play. That gave Arizona an 85-84 lead. Williams is shooting a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me 67.5 percent from 3-point range (27 of 40). That would make Steve Kerr envious, let alone Elliott.
“The 3-pointer he hit in front of our bench was so clutch,” Miller said.
“I know people probably don’t believe me, but in practice, if you ask the players, Derrick is probably about the seventh-best 3-point shooter. And then, all of a sudden, the game comes, and the thing goes in. He’s such a game. He’s so clutch. He just has a way about him.”
As Williams conducted an on-court ESPN interview, the Zona Zoo section serenaded Williams with chants of “MVP, MVP” and then “One more year, one more year.”
“You know,” Williams said later, “with games like that, that makes me want to stay. I came in with four other guys and that’s all I can say. I love every single one of them. We’ll see after the season.”
Enjoy him while you can, Arizona fans.
He’s not going to stick around for four years like Elliott.
But Williams is certainly waking up those echoes of Arizona great individual seasons — Elliott, Khalid Reeves in 1994, Jason Terry in 1999 …
“He’s a special guy,” Miller said. “I’m sure glad we have him.”