Tag:Derrick Williams
Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm

Counting down the top 10 moments

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday night’s title game between Connecticut and Butler ended the 2011 NCAA tournament on a somewhat sour note, as Butler had a historically bad shooting night and neither team was particularly impressive for 40 minutes. This year’s Big Dance, though, was a lot more than just the national championship game. The Final Four was the most unpredictable in history, with zero No. 1 or No. 2 seeds reaching the national semifinals for the first time ever. Two mid-majors reached Houston, including one that would not have been included in the NCAA tournament last season. There was Cinderella runs, upsets, buzzer beaters and outstanding individual performances – everything you could ask for in an NCAA tournament. When we reflect on the 2011 NCAA tournament, what moments will stand out? Here’s one man’s take.

10. John Calipari and DeAndre Liggins: The battle between Kentucky and North Carolina in the Elite Eight was one of the best games in the NCAA tournament. Big baskets by both teams, trash-talking from players, intensity all over the place. Up one with 35 seconds left, Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a four-point lead they would never relinquish. Liggins went over to head coach John Calipari, who hugged Liggins and gave him a kiss. Kentucky was going to the Final Four.

9. First day finishes: The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is always must-see basketball. Last year was arguably the greatest first day in history, but 2011 gave it a run. Within the first seven games of the day, we had Butler senior Matt Howard’s game-winning layup against Old Dominion; Temple’s Juan Fernandez’s leaner to beat Penn State; and Richmond’s Kevin Anderson’s running fallaway with 18 seconds left to clinch a win over Vanderbilt. There were two other buzzer-beaters in that first set that we’ll get to in a bit.

8. Derrick Williams’ block: Similar to what he did against Washington in the regular season, Arizona forward Derrick Williams saved the Wildcats’ win against Memphis with his block of Wesley Witherspoon in the final seconds. It seemed as if Witherspoon had an open lane to the basket, but Williams stepped over from the other side of the basket to send Witherspoon’s shot the other way. Arizona would escape, 77-75.

7. Bradford Burgess’ layup: Down one with the ball under Florida State’s basket with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, everyone was curious what Shaka Smart was going to design. Bradford Burgess slid to the basket, though, getting a perfect pass from Joey Rodriguez and beating Derwin Kitchen for a game-winning layup. Florida State would fail to get a shot off at the other, allowing VCU to win, 72-71, and advance to the Elite Eight.

6. Title game guards: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked down too many big shots throughout the tournament – we could make a top 10 of plays by just Walker and Mack. Walker scored 33 points against Cincinnati, 36 against San Diego State and hit a clutch step-back jumper against Arizona to help get the win against the Wildcats. On the other side, Mack simply refused to miss in the final minutes of games. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer against Florida with 1:21 left to give Butler a lead, then went on a tear against VCU in the national semifinals.

5. Demonte Harper’s jumper/Kenneth Faried’s block: This was another one of the fantastic finishes from the first Thursday. Trailing by two in the final seconds, Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a one-point lead. At the other end, Louisville’s Mike Marra seemed to have an open 3-pointer to win it – but Kenneth Faried skied out and blocked the shot, preserving the first round’s biggest upset.

4. VCU beating Kansas: Everyone knew VCU needed to play the perfect game to beat Kansas. Well, the Rams weren’t exactly perfect – and they still managed to win by double-figures. They became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, but they were the first team that needed to win five games in order to get to the national semifinals. Just three weeks earlier, people had been complaining that VCU was even in the NCAA tournament – Shaka Smart and company proved everyone wrong.

3. Arizona vs. Texas ending: Talk about a change of emotions. Texas led Arizona by two in the final 15 seconds, when Derrick Williams was blocked by Tristan Thompson. Jordan Hamilton called timeout when he picked up the loose ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for a five-second violation – although the five seconds were only about four and change in reality. Arizona would throw it in to Derrick Williams, who finished a 3-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. J’Covan Brown missed at the other end – Arizona would survive. Again.

2. Brandon Knight’s game winners: Both of Brandon Knight’s last-second shots could be top-five moments. In the second round, Knight drove the lane and made his only basket with 2.0 seconds left to hold off upset-minded Princeton. Knight was at it again in the Sweet 16. Facing top-seeded Ohio State, Kentucky was tied in the final 10 seconds. Knight drove past Aaron Craft and pulled up from the right elbow, knocking down a jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give Kentucky the win.

1. Pittsburgh vs. Butler ending: As soon as it happened, everyone knew it would be the defining moment of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Andrew Smith gave Butler a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left on a layup. On the ensuing desperation play, Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown was bumped out of bounds by Shelvin Mack. Brown went to the free-throw line, making the first. He would miss the second free throw, with the rebound falling in the arms of Butler’s Matt Howard. When Howard tried to turn and heave it towards the other end, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson barreled into him, committing a foul 90 feet from the basket. Howard would hit the game-winning foul shot and send top-seeded Pitt packing.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 7:10 pm

West region wrapup: UConn wins again

Jim Calhoun loves to cut down nets in the West

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Connecticut Huskies are the champions of the West region. If that phrase sounds familiar, it should. The same was true in 1999, 2004 and 2009. Two of those seasons ended in national championships. Apparently, Jim Calhoun thrives on cross-country travel. Who knew?

UConn can make this the third time they ride Pacific waves to the national title if Kemba Walker keeps playing the way he has. The super junior has averaged 26.7 points and 6.5 assists per game in the NCAA tournament, showing that he can lead his team to victory as a dominant scorer or a deft distributor. He has the Huskies on a nine game win streak at just the right time of the year. By now, it would seem crazy to bet against his ability to will the team to wins number 10 and 11.

He doesn't do it alone, no matter what you've heard. Without Alex Oriakhi in the middle, the Huskies would be dead in the water. The sophomore is tops at establishing defensive position and starting the break going the other way off of an opponent's miss. He's instilled some of that toughness in freshman Roscoe Smith as well. Looking at freshmen, however, it's the two first-year guards who impress the most. Shabazz Napier has shown himself to be a ball-hawking defensive player with an ability to drill the open jumper, and Jeremy Lamb has been a breakout star, using his long arms to disrupt on defense and throw down spectacular dunks on offense.

Ordinarily, a team with so many freshmen would not be a Final Four favorite. But factor in the decades of experience from Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, and it all seems to average out. Plenty of excitement still to come from these Huskies.

Regional MVP: Kemba Walker, without a doubt. He has weathered strong challenges from Nolan Smith and Derrick Williams and come out the other side even stronger. Walker keeps defenders cross-footed with his ability to drive to the hoop or step back for a trademark lethal three-point dagger. Most impressive is his indomitable will to win. He never seems to get tired.

All-regional team

Kemba Walker, UConn
Jeremy Lamb, UConn
Derrick Williams, Arizona
Kyle Singler, Duke
Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State

Game to remember: Arizona's three close games -- two wins and a loss -- were each memorable in their own way, but it was the one blowout that made the biggest impression. Sean Miller announced that the Wildcats were back ahead of schedule with a 93-77 demolition of the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. Derrick Williams' 5-6 from deep provided the first-half highlights, then a series of monster dunks from he and his teammates completed the shocking result.

Game to forget: UConn's 69-58 win over Cincinnati was a necessary step along the way to the Final Four, but nothing about it will stand out in the memories of fans (unless it's Kemba's NBA-ready five-steps-without-dribbling drive to the hoop) in retrospect. Even Walker's 33 points were sort of been-there-done-that for the national Player of the Year favorite.

Biggest disappointment: Duke. When Kyrie Irving returned just in time for the Big Dance, it almost seemed unfair. This team was built to win a repeat national championship, with senior leadership, bulk inside, hot shooting outside, and a legendary coach. With every reason in the world to win out, the Blue Devils fell flat against an overlooked Arizona team, leaving Coach K to wait until next year to claim the D-I coaching wins record. It's probably going to be a little anticlimactic for it to come against Furman (or whoever) in December rather than in a national title game.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: Tempting to give Derrick Williams the nod for overcoming foul trouble against UConn to score 20, but his shooting touch was off, to the tune of 5-13 from the field and just one three-pointer out of six going in. So, we'll reach way back to the second round and Talor Battle's 23 in a narrow loss to Temple. If his last-second heave hadn't hit the scoreboard, it very well might have gone in. The kid was on fire like that.

Most memorable moments

Derrick Williams blocks Wesley Witherspoon to preserve a 77-75 Arizona win over Memphis in the second round.

Temple's Juan Fernandez nails a leaner at the buzzer to beat Penn State 66-64; second round.

Darius Morris of Michigan barely misses a runner in the lane, Coach K wins his 900th; third round.

Derrick Williams gets the old-fashioned three-point play inside and Arizona beats Texas 70-69; third round.

Jamelle Horne's second-half dunk puts Arizona up 77-63 on Duke, Sweet 16.

Jeremy Lamb skies for a steal and runout dunk to punctuate UConn's 74-67 win over San Diego State, Sweet 16.

Williams and Horne miss back-to-back three point attempts as Arizona falls to UConn 65-63 in the Elite Eight.

Kemba Walker hits a step-back jump shot with a defender in his face, 115-ish and counting.

Team to watch out for next year: If Williams comes back (yeah, right), it's Arizona. It might be anyway. Michigan really impressed with its poised group of young players in a near-upset of Duke, as well.

See you in Houston, Kemba and company.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 11:50 am

Where will Arizona be this time next year?

Kyle Fogg Posted by Eric Angevine

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- So, Arizona lost in the Elite Eight on a very close final score of 65-63. We're all assuming Derrick Williams will declare for the NBA draft, and that he probably can't tell us with any certainty what he's going to do just hours after a loss. But he should go: he'd be wasting his time in college next year. He's ready now. I know from hearing Arizona coach Sean Miller talk this weekend that he expects Williams to depart.

We saw some real improvement from Williams' teammates over the course of the tournament, so even if Williams does leave, Arizona should be in good shape. Jesse Perry was rugged on the interior, scoring 14 points and hauling down seven boards, much of that production coming when Williams was saddled with foul trouble in the first half. He'll be a senior next year.

MoMo Jones, a sophomore, has shown real leadership despite his youth. If he can score a bit more, he'll become more valuable to the team. He may very well be capable of just that, but his job this year was to pass to Williams whenever possible. Kyle Fogg (right) has shown a deadly shooting stroke, and he and Kevin Parrom did well guarding college basketball's most dangerous player: Kemba Walker. 6-foot-7 Solomon Hill has shown a knack for rebounding.

The real plus is the incoming class of freshmen. Sean Miller landed an excellent crop for next year, and getting the Elite Eight experience for his sophomores and juniors will allow the new guys to fit in gradually.

Let's take a look:

Nick Johnson, 6-3 SG: Like the current players Miller puts on the court, Johnson is a transition threat with athletic ability. He can throw down a dunk when called for, which was a hallmark of the Wildcats' run to the West region final. He'll provide a slasher to go with Fogg's shooter.

Josiah Turner, 6-3 PG: Turner looks like a perfect complement to MoMo. He's known as a scoring combo guard with point guard skills. He can pass or score, and he has the strength to take the ball inside. More strength in the guard corps for Sean Miller.

Angelo Chol, 6-8 PF: Chol is one of the gems of Miller's class of 2011. He is long and athletic, and can shoot. He's not the bulkiest guy around, but a year in the weight room at Arizona should fix that. Chol has the instincts of a shot-blocker, which could come in very handy for next year's version of the Wildcats.

Sidiki Johnson, 6-8 PF: Johnson is a bit heavier than Chol, so he's good for the inside muscle jobs. Still, like everyone Miller is recruiting, he can run the floor. Get used to track meets in Tucson. Johnson gets the offensive putbacks, which could make him a very dangerous weapon with his ability to move.

Each of these guys is a top talent at his position. And let's remember that Miller has taken players that weren't that highly rated and made them his kind of guys. If he starts out with top talent next season, there's no reason he can't take the 'Cats back to the Elite Eight. He'll have to figure out which of these guys is the main scoring option, but he'll have time for that. And now that he's announced the return of the Arizona of legend, expect more top high school players to commit to his program.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:30 pm

Elite Eight: No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 3 Connecticut

Posted by Eric Angevine

Be honest. If Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams don't somehow combine for 80 points in the regional final game in Anaheim, you'll feel a little bit cheated, won't you?

The crazy thing is, you would be completely justified in feeling that way.

Watching these two superior players all season long has been one of college basketball's major joys - must-see TV for those who couldn't make it to Tucson, Arizona or Storrs, Connecticut on a regular basis. To have them matched up against each other on the same court is enough to make a college hoops fan giddy. Heck, it's enough to make disinterested bystanders sit up and take notice.

If we assume that Williams and Walker will put on a show, and more or less cancel each other out on the score sheet, how do we determine who has the winning edge?

There are a couple of noticeable things going on with Kemba's game right now that bear watching. As his scoring load has increased against ever tougher opponents in the tournament, his other stats have naturally declined.

Kemba Walker's tournament lines

vs. No. 15 Bucknell: 35 minutes, 18 points, 8 rebounds, 12 assists

vs. No. 6 Cincinnati: 39 minutes, 33 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists

vs. No. 2 San Diego State: 40 minutes, 36 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists

This is working out OK for the Huskies because other players are specializing in areas that once also fell heavily on Kemba's shoulders. Alex Oriakhi has always been UConn's pillar of strength inside, but now he's getting help on the defensive boards from freshman Roscoe Smith. Combined, the two forwards had 17 boards against a tall San Diego State team. All but one of Smith's rebounds came on the defensive end, which was crucial to getting the Huskies' offense downcourt in a hurry, where they could get easy buckets or foul shots in transition. Shabazz Napier played tough defense and doled out six assists in limited action, and Jeremy Lamb proved to be a crucial secondary scorer with 24 points and a perfect 3 of 3 from behind the arc.

For Arizona, the upset of Duke was revelatory. Sean Miller showed that his collection of role players could actually function as an ideal unit, as long as nobody else minded that Derrick Williams would be doing most of the scoring. Apparently, nobody does, which seems wise.

Derrick Williams' tournament lines

vs. No. 12 Memphis: 36 minutes, 22 points, 10 rebounds

vs. No. 4 Texas: 29 minutes, 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

vs. No. 1 Duke: 35 minutes, 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

Williams has actually found other facets of his game as the tournament has progressed. Not found, per se - they've always been there - but he's figured out how to work other parts of his game into tight contests on the big stage. Williams' ability to do all this, including blocking a shot here or there, without fouling much is truly impressive.

Williams can get his own shot, that much is obvious, but it really helps that he has fellow sophomore MoMo Jones playing at such a high level right now. Jones got into double figures in scoring on Thursday, but his value as a leader is tough to define with statistical measures. Jones dished six assists in the rout of Duke, which was by far his highest total of the tournament. Williams was freed up to do damage from the wing (5 of 6 from deep) by the workmanlike rebounding of Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Jamelle Horne inside. Kyle Fogg, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes showed the ability to knock down shots when left open by the extra attention paid to Williams.

It's tough to draw a defining edge out of that morass of numbers, but the name that keeps sticking out is that of Jeremy Lamb. The freshman's stellar play of late has made Kemba Walker even more dangerous, and Lamb will likely become the rallying point for this team if Walker leaves UConn for the NBA at the end of this season, a possibility that seems more likely the deeper the Huskies go in this tournament.

Fortunately, we don't have to know who will win. The fact that we have no clue is what will make this game such an exciting, intriguing centerpoint to this day. Whichever team comes out of this melee alive will be a welcome sight for fans with an eye on Houston next weekend. For opponents, not so much.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 6:38 pm

Video: Derrick Williams talks about his teammates

Posted by Eric Angevine

Based on the assumption that he was probably sick and tired of talking about himself already, I asked Derrick Williams to talk about his Arizona teammates, who caught fire last night in the second half to propel the Wildcats past the Duke Blue Devils and into the Elite Eight.

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:47 am
Edited on: March 25, 2011 1:59 am

Arizona's supporting cast comes alive vs. Duke

Posted by Eric Angevine

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In my preview of the Anaheim Regional, I said that they key for Arizona, should they hope to beat a loaded Duke team, would be to keep the score close and let Derrick Williams do his thing in the final minute.

That's because I could not conceive of what actually happened tonight in the Honda Center. With Williams out of the game for a stretch his teammates took over the scoring load and absolutely ran Duke out of the gym. Sure, Williams got his 32 points and 13 boards, but several of his teammates found their stroke as an increasingly gassed and panicked Blue Devils squad missed contested shots that fell into the hands of Arizona defenders. The Arizona Wildcats ran away with the game in transition, winning 93-77 to stall Mike Krzyzewski's win total at 900, still two shy of tying his mentor, Bob Knight for the all-time D-I win record.

Perhaps most astonishing, the coaching matchup went to second-year Arizona head man Sean Miller, who was a non-stop, pointing, shouting, gesticulating whirlwind of a human being on the Wildcats sideline. When his star player Williams roared at the crowd after one of his many choice plays, it was Miller who kept him on track, pointing to the defensive end of the floor and waving the future NBA draft pick into compliance.

It was an all-hands-on-deck experience for the Wildcats, who had what looked like five or six coaches flying up and down off the bench, shouting instructions at all times. Tonight was not a night to sit around and wait for Williams to rescue the team, as he had done so many times before. The 'Cats had tried that, and it led to a 44-38 halftime deficit. At that point, it was Williams with 25 points and the rest of the team with just 13. Kyle Fogg was the team's second-leading scorer with a measly four points.

Fogg scored four more in the second half, but the rest of the team came alive, going on mini-runs that seemed to bedazzle the Blue Devils, especially after Kyle Singler absorbed his fourth foul with plenty of time left in the second half. Singler never fouled out, but he was no longer able to bump and battle with Williams as he had in the first half. Momo Jones, an erratic scorer at best this season, poured in 16 points on 6-10 shooting and a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Solomon Hill, usually good for about 8 points per game, put in 13.

As a team, the Wildcats shot 54 percent from the floor and an astonishing 60 percent from deep. Williams alone accounted for 5 of 6 three point shots, all in the first half. Jamelle Horne, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes each drilled their lone attempts from long range.

Arizona's 200 minutes of game time were spread out fairly evenly behind Williams' 35. Jesse Perry, Solomon Hill, Momo Jones, Fogg and Kevin Parrom each garnered between 20-28 minutes of game time. Jamelle Horne and Jordin Mayes had 15 and 12, respectively. Only Kyryl Natyazhko and Brendon Lavender were in single digits. That ability to run ten players and their fouls in and out of the game put Duke on the ropes for good in the second half.

Arizona will face the UConn Huskies and their own superstar player, Kemba Walker, at 7:05 p.m. ET on March 26. The winner will advance to the Final Four. After the wide-open, fast-moving attack we saw on this first day of action in Anaheim, it wouldn't surprise us to see Derrick and company in Houston.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:46 am
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Posted on: March 12, 2011 9:39 am

Pac-10 championship game preview

The Washington Huskies made sure there won't be any bid thieves coming out of the Pac-10 this year. By dispatching the Oregon Ducks 69-51 in a hard-fought game on March 11, Lorenzo Romar's squad -- the No. 3 seed -- put themselves in the championship game with No. 1 Arizona. The final game of the Pac-10 tournament will be played at 6:10 p.m. ET on CBS.

For Arizona, the key player couldn't be more obvious. Sophomore Derrick Williams has posted ten double-doubles this season, and scored in double figures in all but one game (February 24 at USC). His ability to throw down the spectacular dunk in the flow of game action has put him on the highlight reels, but his ability to step back and take a well-aimed jumper (63 percent from deep) is what makes him the truly dangerous player that has returned the Wildcats to the national rankings.

Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Isaiah ThomasWilliams' dominance means his supporting cast is rather anonymous on the national stage. No other player averages double figures in scoring, which may be be the team's achilles heel. Over the long haul, the role players have done what it takes to get to this point, but the single-elimination format of the postseason could expose that weakness.

Lamont "Momo" Jones is the team's second-leading scorer, notching 9.6 points per game. He had a nice stretch in late January and early February where he consistently scored in double figures, but has become erratic again in crunch time. Momo shares ballhandling duties with Kyle Fogg, the junior who has seen his minutes dwindle in the Pac-10 tournament. Aside from Williams' 8.1 rebounds per game, the Wildcats get their rebounds by committee, with Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry playing catch-as-catch-can on a nightly basis.

For Washington, a position of strength has become a position of weakness over the long season. The guard rotation has taken hits, from the injury that sidelined Abdul Gaddy after the much-improved sophomore had played just 13 games, to the recent suspension of stalwart defender Venoy Overton for off-court issues. In the win over Oregon, the Huskies got good contributions from freshmen C.J. Wilcox, who scored 14 points on 3-7 deep shooting, and Terrence Ross, who kicked in 13. The centerpiece of the guard rotation has always been senior Isaiah Thomas, and he's in his usual good form. The diminutive floor general had 10 points and 12 assists on Friday.

The Washington frontcourt is bolstered by the improved play of UK native Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The senior is averaging 16 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 1.6 bpg, while keeping up with the wicked pace Lorenzo Romar's offense dictates. Justin Holliday is the team's other senior starter, and he's capable of having a big night as well, though he's fairly inconsistent.

These teams split the season series, so the result of this one will be anyone's guess. With charismatic players like Williams and Thomas on the floor, it's bound to be very entertaining.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

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