We've been watching Arizona basketball since, well, we moved to Tucson in 1973 to attend that fine institution of occasional and usually random learning.
|Derrick Williams, one of the all-time great Arizona Wildcats.|
We actually were in attendance for the final game at ancient Bear Down Gym, seemingly a throwback to the days of James Naismith and the proverbial peach basket, and at the opening of a shiny new McKale Center, where the Wildcats still play.
Since then, we've seen hundreds of Arizona games, both in person and on the tube, and we are not hard-pressed to recall the highs and lows ( the1997 National Championship obviously number one, and the loss to 15th-seeded Santa Clara and a young Steve Nash probably the worst).
That all said, Arizona's second-half performance in Anaheim last night against number-one seed Duke in the Sweet 16 game seriously earned its eternal place in the pantheon of the storied program's all-time great moments.
No doubt, the Cats would have taken down any other college team in the nation after sophomore Derrick Williams -- whom we have been touting all season long as underrated (nationally) -- almost single-handedly kept his team close with 25 points in the first half, including a huge three-pointer at the buzzer over a 7-foot-tall Blue Devil.
We've rarely seen Duke get beat down by anyone, much less a young team that, just one month ago, got crunched by UCLA and USC in what became known as the Lost Weekend in Los Angeles.
But the Blue Devils (not the Sun Devils) took a thoroughly unexpected whupping.
The final score was 93-77 after the Cats trailed by six at the half, and it could have been worse.
Williams scored only seven points after intermission, as scrappy MoMo Jones, the occasionally brilliant Solomon Hill, and streaky Kyle Fogg took over much of the scoring. But it was the presence of Williams, who now is appreciated by everyone watching March Madness, who dominated the proceedings.
The Arizona win, its 30th of what has become a magical season, puts them in an Elite Eight game on Saturday against powerful Connecticut, which nipped San Diego State in the first game out in Anaheim.
Forty minutes from an unlikely trip to the Final Four. Unlikely, yes, but certainly not impossible.