March 5, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - With Aerosmith's "Dream On" blaring through the loudspeakers, Arizona's players stood and watched as the videoboard showed highlights of their memorable season.
Once it was over, the jubilant Wildcats sprinted to the north end of the McKale Center and made a lap through the student section, high-fiving and squirming their way through the red mosh pit of the 'Zona Zoo in delight.
For a once-proud program that had fallen on hard times, this truly was a dream.
Derrick Williams managed to be productive despite early foul trouble and got plenty of help in what may have been his final home game, lifting No. 18 Arizona to a 90-82 win over Oregon and the outright Pac-10 title on Saturday.
"I can't imagine it being any better anyplace else," Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Arizona (25-6, 14-4) already had earned a share of the title for the first time in six years and the McKale Center was juiced in anticipation of nets coming down.
The Wildcats put on quite a shooting show, hitting 11 3-pointers and shooting 56 percent overall to close out their first undefeated home season (17-0) in 12 years.
I can't imagine it being any better any place else.
UA coach Sean Miller on the atmosphere after winning the Pac-10 Title.
Williams was a nonfactor in the first half and still finished with 14 points, closing out the regular-season finale with a soaring dunk in the closing minutes to set off a celebration that was still going 30 minutes after the final buzzer.
"It's amazing," said Williams, who was 5 for 7 from the field and had five rebounds in 22 minutes. "This is the reason why I came here."
Oregon (14-16, 7-11) put up a fight despite having little to play for besides a better seed in next week's Pac-10 tournament.
The Ducks withstood initial flurries by Arizona in each half, trimming a 17-point lead early in the second to six with 5 1/2 minutes left behind Joevan Catron (28 points). The Ducks stayed close the rest of the way, but never made it back, ending the regular season with four-game losing streak.
"We had the same fight we had earlier in the season," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "I want them to do be excited about that. They did all those things you look for for competitiveness."
The Wildcats' 12th Pac-10 title completes an impressive turnaround.
Once of the nation's best programs, Arizona had fallen a few rungs the past few years, starting with Lute Olson's leave of absence and retirement in consecutive seasons.
Miller gave the Wildcats stability after arriving from a successful stint at Xavier and, after a foundation-setting 2009-10 season, re-established Arizona's standing among the elite. He did it behind Williams, a deep and talented supporting cast, and a confidence that absorbed a slight dent with a late-season slide a year ago.
The Pac-10's 2010 freshman of the year, Williams developed into one of the nation's best players during his sophomore season, a 6-foot-8 bundle of power and grace who can shoot inside or out, right-handed or left. Projected as an NBA lottery pick, he faces a decision whether to stick around in the desert or give the pros a try.
Just not yet.
There's still some basketball left, starting with the Pac-10 tournament, where the Wildcats will be the No. 1 seed, and a likely return to the NCAA tournament after their 25-year run ended last season.
"I just want to win, that's all I can say about that," Williams said. "That's my focus for right now."
If this was Williams' final home game, it'll be remembered for the help he got.
With a piece of black tape replacing the bulky bandage on his injured right pinky, Williams took just two shots in the first half and scored two points while battling foul trouble.
The rest of the Wildcats made up for it, with 10 players scoring in the first half, nine getting at least one assist and 3-pointers flying in from seemingly everywhere.
Fogg got it started with three straight 3s during an opening 13-4 and Parrom jumped off the bench to drain two of his own. Arizona ended up hitting seven in the first half and shot 16 of 27 overall to build a 41-32 lead.
Catron had his inside-outside game going while scoring 12 points in the first half and the Ducks rallied after an early run put Arizona up 53-36 in the second. Oregon closed to 70-64 when Catron hit a 3-pointer, but couldn't get any closer as Williams, who heard chants of "One more year!" throughout the game, punctuated the victory with a tomahawk dunk along the baseline.
"Arizona is the best team in the league," Altman said. "Derrick Williams is an unbelievable player. Sean Miller had done a wonderful job in two years to get them where they are. I think they have a chance to make a run."