TUCSON, Ariz. – Derrick Williams punched the ball away from Matthew Bryan-Amaning as time expired while simultaneously delivering a knockout blow to Washington’s hopes of winning a Pac-10 men’s basketball title.
On the previous play, Arizona’s sophomore star swatted Darnell Gant’s potential winner out of bounds with less than 1 second remaining, which proved to be the decisive defensive stand in the Huskies’ 87-86 loss Saturday afternoon.
“I thought it was goaltending,” Gant said. “I thought I got it up before he could get there. I thought the ball was coming down, but (the officials) called it the other way.”
With 0.2 seconds on the clock, the Huskies had one last desperate chance, but Williams poked Justin Holiday’s pass away.
While the stunned Huskies dropped their heads in disappointment, Williams ran to midcourt and dove on the floor, smothered by his teammates.
The sellout crowd of 14,545 at the McKale Center serenaded Williams with chants of “M-V-P” and “One more year.”
“With games like this, it makes me want to stay,” said Williams, who many consider an NBA lottery pick if he decides to forgo his college eligibility. “It’s a great feeling right now. We are in first place and we might be a top-10 team.”
Arizona moved 11/2 games ahead of UCLA atop the Pac-10. Williams, who finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds, furthered his case to win the conference’s Player of the Year award.
“The worst-case scenario for us to win is they’d have to lose every game,” Bryan-Amaning said. “Realistically, that isn’t going to happen with the way they have been playing.”
After the defeat, the Huskies fell 21/2 games behind Arizona.
“We just need to take care of business and play strong,” said Bryan-Amaning, who nearly matched Williams’ performance.
The Washington senior had 24 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals.