Arizona went to its best player, even on a day when he was having perhaps his worst game of the season, and the 6-foot-8 forward propelled the Cats to Anaheim and a date with top-seeded Duke in the NCAA regional semifinals.
Williams converted a pick-and-roll layup and free throw with 9.6 seconds left on Sunday and the Wildcats (29-7) held off Texas 70-69 in Tulsa, Okla., to advance.
In just his second season, coach Sean Miller will lead Arizona against legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils (32-4) on March 24, at Anaheim Calif. Duke moved through to the regional semifinals with a 73-71 win over Michigan.
Miller, who has rebuilt Arizona's storied program in more rapid fashion than anyone imagined, has 155 career victories. Coach K pocked No. 900 on Sunday.
The teams haven't met in the postseason since 2001 when Duke claimed an 82-72 victory in the national championship game at Minneapolis.
Arizona wouldn't be one of the Sweet 16 teams if not for Williams, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, who figures to move on to the NBA following the Cats' next defeat. He wouldn't let that happen on Friday, blocking a shot at the finish to secure Arizona's 77-75 win over Memphis. And he wouldn't let it happen against Texas, which rallied from an 11-point deficit in the first half and led 69-67 after two free throws by J'Covan Brown with 1 minute left.
Williams was having a terrible game, having made just 3 of 14 shots from the field. He had missed five of his previous eight free throws.
But Kyle Fogg bounced a pass through two defenders to Williams, who banked in a layup while being fouled and knocked to the ground by Texas star Jordan Hamilton. He free throw put the Cats ahead for good, capping a 17-point, 14-rebound performance.
"If you have a great, great player, when you get on the plane after the game, you're going to feel a lot better if you gave your best player a chance, make or miss," Miller said. "He hasn't had a game like that all year.
"He's like (Yankees closer) Mariano Rivera. When the game is on the line, he finishes it off."
--The Wildcats beat Texas despite getting zero points from sophomore PG MoMo Jones, their second-leading scorer most of the season. It was Jones' first scoreless game of the season. Two days after scoring 18 points in the win over Memphis, Jones was 0 for 6 from the field against Texas.
--While Arizona struggled at the foul line against Texas, shooting just 14 for 22, the Cats made eight straight at one point late in the Memphis game to help secure the win.
COACH: Sean Miller, second year at Arizona, first postseason appearance
KEYS TO VICTORY: Arizona gets a travel break in its game against Duke, playing at Anaheim. Southern California is home to six Wildcats players, including Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill and Jordin Mayes. The Wildcats must shoot the 3-pointer well against Duke, which has great size and will make it difficult to score inside. The Wildcats were 8 of 14 from deep in the win over Texas and lead the Pac-10 at 39.9 percent from beyond the arc.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I voted for him for national player of the year. My vote doesn't change after today's performance because he's really good." -- Memphis coach and Arizona graduate Josh Pastner on Derrick Williams, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds and made the game's biggest defensive play in the Wildcats' 77-75 victory.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
vs. Duke, March 24, NCAA tournament regional semifinal
KEY MATCHUPS: The defending national champion Blue Devils are college basketball royalty. They feature two superb senior leaders in G Nolan Smith (21.0 ppg) and SG Kyle Singler (16.8 ppg) and a future pro in freshman Kryie Irving, who scored in double digits both NCAA Tournament games last weekend in his first action since injuring the big toe on his right foot back on Dec. 4. Duke blends underrated interior physicality with skill and quickness on the perimeter. The Blue Devils have won eight straight NCAA Tournament games over the past two seasons, and they expect to win.
SCOUTING REPORT: The Wildcats will need a big game from their star sophomore, Derrick Williams, who delivered the big play in an otherwise off night against Texas. Williams could be a difficult matchup for the Blue Devils, but Mike Krzyzewski has seen it all and he has three days to prepare for the Cats' All-America sophomore. Arizona has gotten great bench play in recent weeks, especially from Jordin Mayes, Brendon Lavender and Kevin Parrom. That must continue if they expect to beat a team of Duke's pedigree.
--Sophomore F Derrick Williams shot 9 for 9 from the free throw line in the win over Memphis, then made just 9 of 15 against Texas. But he made the one that mattered, completing a three-point play to put the Cats ahead with 9.6 seconds left. Despite his 4-for-15 shooting effort against the Longhorns, Williams averaged 18.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in his first two NCAA games and has 13 double-doubles on the season.
--Sophomore F Solomon Hill, who often plays in the shadows, had 12 of his 16 points in the first half against Texas and added eight rebounds. The 16 points were the most Hill has produced in a game since going for a season-high 20 against Santa Clara on Nov. 26 -- nearly four months ago.
--Sophomore PG MoMo Jones had 18 points and made two key free throws at the finish to help Arizona beat Memphis in its NCAA opener. He went scoreless against Texas, missing all six of his shots from the field, three in each half. Jones has made just 12 of 43 shots from the field over the past five games.