In the first two games of the tournament, Derrick Williams saved Arizona’s season with game changing plays at the end. He stepped up big with a blocked shot that sealed the victory against Memphis in round one and then his man-sized basket at the end of the game against Texas decided the game after the Longhorns made a costly mistakes (even though the refs screwed the pooch on that 5-second call by Texas). Those two games gave everyone in the nation just a glimpse of how good he really is. Then last night, Williams took his game to another stratosphere.
On the biggest stage and playing against the number one seeded Blue Devils of the West Regional, the Pac-10 Player of the Year was a man amongst boys and dominated the paint on both ends. Simply put Williams was remarkable. His breath-taking dunks, incredible finishes around the basket, three-pointers from what looked like San Francisco, and one-handed rebounds all led to Williams having a career night and Arizona shocking Duke in the Sweet 16. In easily the best performance of the tournament so far, Williams was unguardable and turned out to be the best player on the court last night despite sharing it with a National Player of the Year candidate and a top-three pick in the NBA Draft.
Derrick Williams joined Into the Night with Tony Bruno to talk about the big win over Duke Thursday night, what changed in the second half, how excited the guys are in the locker room, and what Mike Krzyzewski said to him after the game.
Whether or not this is the best win for him at Arizona:
“Yeah this is the best win we’ve had since I’ve been here at Arizona and actually in the last couple of years. Whenever you beat Duke, not only by more than two points or ten points, but we beat them by 16 points and it’s a great feeling. We played hard tonight.”
What changed in the second half:
“We got a lot of stops. I think we led the second half in rebounding 40 to 27. So whenever you can outrebound people and get a lot of stops, you have a good chance of winning. That’s what we like to do. Get stops, push the ball, and get out in the open court.”
How excited the guys are in the locker room:
“Oh yeah. Whenever you’re in the Elite Eight the players are gonna be going crazy. Everybody is excited, we’re playing UConn next, and if we win that game, it’s going to the Final Four. We’re all focused on that and getting this win right here.”
What it was like to be back home:
“It was crazy. My high school being 15 minutes from here and just going back to my high school and practicing there brought back a lot of memories and a lot of wins. It translated to tonight and beating Duke.”
On the message Coach K gave him after the game:
“He just said I have a great talent, I’m a special player, and he looks for me in the future. Don’t take anything for granted and just keep working hard. I took a lot from that so far.”
Listen to Derrick Williams on Into the Night with Tony Bruno here (Audio begins 34:00 into the podcast)