More than five years after leaving the UA for an NFL career, Earl Mitchell returns to campus...
Arizona, UConn to Play Saturday in Elite Eight
The winner of Saturday's game between Arizona and Conneticut advances to the Final Four April 2-4 in Houston.
No. 5 seed Arizona (30-7, 14-4 Pac-10) has advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament West Regional final against No. 3 seed Connecticut (29-9, 9-9 Big East) on Saturday, March 26 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
This is Arizona's ninth Elite Eight appearance (1976, 1988, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2011), and the Wildcats have a 4-4 record in those games. Not
counting vacated appearances, this is UA's 27th NCAA Tournament appearance overall, and the program has a 45-25 (.643) record in NCAA Tournament action.
Arizona's advancement to the Elite Eight marks the ninth time in 14 appearances that Arizona has won a regional final since 1976. This is Arizona's 18th appearance in the West Region – the most of any Tournament regional – and 29 of UA's 45 NCAA Tournament victories (64 percent) have come while playing in the West.
The UA has been ranked for seven consecutive weeks and currently is No. 17 in the March 14 Associated Press and No. 15 in the March 7 ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls. The UA's seven straight weeks in both national polls is the longest for a Pac-10 club in 2010-11.
Saturday's game will mark the fifth meeting of the two schools, with Connecticut holding a 4-0 series advantage. The Huskies won the series opener, 79-69, Dec. 7, 1999, at the Great Eight in Chicago and haven't stopped, also winning 71-69 on Dec. 9, 2000 in Storrs, Conn.; 100-98 (ot) on Jan. 26, 2002 in Tucson and 79-70 on Nov. 22, 2005, in Lahaina, Maui, as part of the Maui Invitational.
All-time, Arizona is 0-1 in series games played in Tucson, 0-1 in Storrs, Conn., and 0-2 in neutral-site games. Connecticut and Arizona have never met in NCAA Tournament play.
Against Duke, Derrick Williams scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the first half, and his teammates repaid the favor by blitzing Duke in the second period en route to a 93-77 win March 24 in the West Regional semifinal.
Despite Williams' early efforts, Duke led 44-38 at the break before Arizona took the game over with a 19-2 run that covered 4:11. In the decisive period, the Wildcats outscored the Blue Devils, 55-33, outshot them, .583-.375, and outrebounded them 25-9, to give Duke its worst loss of the season.
In addition to Williams, who also added 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals, Lamont Jones posted 16 points and six assists, while Solomon Hill added 13 points and five rebounds.
Williams' 32 points, his career high, matched the school record for an NCAA Tournament performance, matching the total posted by guard Khalid Reeves against Loyola (Md.) in first-round action in 1994. Additionally, his 25 first-half points were the most for a Wildcat player in any half this season.
Williams' 32 points Thursday pushed his season total to 721, making him only the third Arizona player (now accomplished four times) to reach that level in a single season behind guard Khalid Reeves' 848 in 1993-94, and two years by forward Sean Elliott who knocked down 743 in 1987-88 and 735 a year later in 1988-89.
It's some dramatic growth for the 6-foot-8 forward, who notched 486 points in his freshman campaign last year. No Arizona player has scored more points in his first two seasons than Williams, who now has 1,207 career points.
With a win, Arizona will advance to the NCAA Final Four, April 2-4, in Houston. A loss would send the team home for the offseason.