Heroic block solidifies fitting nickname for Arizona’s Derrick Williams

TULSA, Okla. — While Derrick Williams was rehashing the heroic blocked shot that propelled Arizona on Friday afternoon into an NCAA tournament third round showdown with Texas, teammates in the Wildcats locker room yelled out calls of 'Superman! Superman!'

The nickname was created by Wildcats guard Kevin Parrom on Feb. 19, when Williams' intimidating right mitt first saved the day in an 87-86 victory over Washington.

He solidified the monicker with a swipe of Memphis's Wesley Witherspoon in a 77-75 victory in Tulsa, Okla., which was the program's first in the NCAAs under second-year coach Sean Miller.

"D-Will came out of nowhere, man," forward Jamelle Horne said. "Superman."

Arizona overcame a double-digit first half deficit behind Williams' interior grit and production. After letting an eight-point second half lead slip away, Wildcats sophomore guard Momo Jones got a shooter's bounce on a 3-pointer from the right wing to give them a 71-68 lead with 1:36 left to play.

Arizona never trailed again, but Memphis wouldn't let go, and it put the ultimate scare into the Cats with just under 10 seconds left to play.

Opting not to foul an opponent with the ball while holding a slim lead in the closing seconds ultimately killed the Cats on Sunday in the Pac-10 title game, where they lost to Washington in overtime, 77-75.

This time, up by three, Jones hacked Memphis guard Joe Jackson at mid-court with five seconds left, sending him to the line for two shots in the double bonus. Jackson made the first, but missed the second, and Tigers big man Will Coleman tipped the ball to Witherspoon, who had a golden angle for the potential game-tying bucket. {YSP:MORE}

"The first time, against Washington, they threw to Jamelle's man, who tried to jump-hook and I came from the weak side," Williams said, looking back on his vicious swat of UW's Terrence Ross. "I had to come from the weak side again and make a play on the ball. Luckily, I did."

He had slid over towards Horne and Coleman this time in an effort to reach for the long rebound, which let Witherspoon open to take the tap. With limited space against the backboard, Williams quickly recovered again sealed an Arizona victory, then slamming his chest with his right fist while letting out a big roar.

"Actually, I think I blocked it twice," he said with a laugh. "I blocked it, it came off of the backboard and it hit my elbow as well. "Luckily, I got the block. If I didn't get the block, we'd be on our way home already. So I'm glad we're still here."

It was a vast overall improvement on the defensive end that helped Williams earn Pac-10 Player of the Year honors this season, but his 22 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis were testimonials of his built-in, bread-and-butter strengths.

Arizona and Texas will meet now on Sunday in what is sure to be one of the third round's more intriguing games. The Longhorns will present the Cats with one of their tougher front-court match-ups of the season.

With Superman on its side, Arizona doesn't appear to be too worried.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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