Derrick Williams leads Cats past ASU in hoops match-up

Yesterday’s Duel in the Desert between the Arizona and ASU basketball teams offered up a case study in what recruiting does to the delicate balance of power in college basketball.

The Wildcats won this encounter, 80-69, to put the skids to a three-game losing streak to the Sun Devils in McKale Center.  Both teams brought their ‘A’ game, but the shift in the balance of power can be attributed to a 6’8″ power forward that scored 31 points and snagged 10 rebounds for the Cats.

ASU head coach, Herb Sendek, summed it up well after the game:  “We had no answer for him.”

He was referring to sophomore sensation, Derrick Williams, who was the team’s leading scorer as a freshman last year and is on a mission this season, likely culminating with a jump to the NBA next year.

This was the second time in three games that Williams dropped in 31 points as he also powered the Cats to a 73-71 win over California on Jan. 6.

Williams might just as easily have been playing in a maroon and gold uniform the last two seasons.  After de-comitting from his agreement to play for USC when the Trojans got hit with NCAA allegations, both ASU and UofA were on his very short list.

Sean Miller won that round and is using Williams’ talents to help in his rebuilding efforts in Tucson.  And to antagonize his rivals to the north.

Actually, it was the three-headed monster under the glass that did in the Devils yesterday.  Williams combined with junior Jesse Perry and sophomore Solomon Hill to control the paint on their home floor, accounting for 48 of the team’s points and 17 rebounds.

The Cats out-rebounded their visitors, 35-21, including a 14-4 advantage on the offensive glass.

But this win was never a given.  ASU actually got off to a 12-6 lead before the Cats went on a 16-4 run to take a 43-34 lead at the half.

Not many of those 34 points were earned under the boards, however, as the Devils used the three-point line to advantage, getting more than half of their points off the trey.

And the Devils came back again in the second half, pulling to within four points, 61-57, with just over six minutes to play.  But they couldn’t get over the hump this time.

ASU’s sophomore guard, Trent Lockett, led the Devils in scoring, followed by 14 points from the senior guard, Ty Abbott.

Sendek will take his match-up zone defense to Pullman for a game with a solid Washington State squad that is 13-5 overall and 3-3 in Pac-10 play. ASU has dropped to 9-8, 1-4.

Miller and his boys will have an even taller hill to climb in the rainy state, as they travel to Seattle to take on Washington and break their 4-1 lock at the top of the conference.  The Huskies are 12-4 overall; the Cats are 15-3.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)