Monday, March 21, 2011 at 9 a.m.
Arizona Wildcats fans at the arena in Tulsa and elsewhere could feel yesterday's game against Texas slipping away in the closing moments.
Arizona faces defending champs Duke this Thursday night in Anaheim
With just a few minutes left, the Longhorns had taken their first lead since very early in the fiercely fought contest, and it was all the Cats could do but hang on for their basketball lives.
It really seemed all but over with 14.5 seconds left after Arizona star Derrick Williams couldn't connect on a desperation shot as the 35-second clock expired.
The Longhorns were up 69-67 as they attempted to get the ball in-bounds underneath Arizona's basket.
This is when things got wild--not nearly as seriously insane as the bizarre end to the Butler-Pittsburgh game on Saturday night (craziest finish in a big game that we've ever seen)--but filled with intrigue, close calls, and an amazing play by a wonderful player, the Cats' Derrick Williams.
It started when Texas freshman Cory Joseph ried to find someone to toss the ball to, but no one was open.
Joseph looked to the ref and tried to call a time-out, the sensible thing to do in his predicament.
Instead, he was called for a five-second violation, the break of the year for Arizona. It appeared in real time and then on tape that the ref's hand count hadn't yet struck five (ESPN later clocked it at 4.76 seconds), something that the Texas faithful will be griping about for years to come.
Less than five fateful seconds later, Derrick Williams--he of more late-game heroics of late than any other player in America--threw up an acrobatic shot as he was fouled down low. Somehow, the shot somehow banked in, and Williams then hit what turned out to be the game-winning free throw.
Texas had the last shot (or maybe shots), and nearly made both of them. But they didn't.
The surprising and definitely wacky 70-69 Arizona win moved the Tucson team into the Sweet 16 against a Duke Blue Devils team that won its game against Michigan by all of two points.
That one will be played Thursday night in Anaheim, where the Cats' fan base should be out in force.
Props to Arizona players Solomon Hill, Jordin Mayes, and former Mesa Mountain View star Brenden Lavender for picking up the slack in a game where Derrick Williams was hounded by the Longhorns like a illegal immigrant corn vendor in south Phoenix.
Whatever happens on Thursday, this season has been something of a gem for a program rebuilt in a hurry by the Cats' head coach, Sean Miller.