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This year’s countdown to tipoff includes an overall look at the best play in Arizona Wildcats history, which will be determined as the days leading up to tipoff. Today marks 45 days until Arizona starts its 2014-15 season against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 14 at McKale Center. Along with the mentioning of the top plays, the countdown will once again display the top players who wore the number that corresponds with the day. The following is the next top play (they will be listed randomly during the countdown until a determination is made in a bracket):
Derrick Williams, playing through the pain of a broken right pinky, leaped up and swatted Darnell Gant’s shot into the stands, and then finished off Washington by stealing the inbound pass to preserve a wild 87-86 win for Arizona on Feb. 19, 2011.
Williams produced one of the most memorable games of his career, scoring 26 points with 11 rebounds. He scored 10 of his points in the final 6 minutes and hit a 3-pointer from in front of Arizona’s bench to put the Wildcats up by one with just over a minute left.
Solomon Hill gave Arizona the lead on a putback with 24 seconds left, but the Wildcats traded a turnover by Washington with one of their own after failing to get the ball inbound. Taking the ball out under the basket with 2.2 seconds left, the Huskies got the ball to Gant in the lane. As Gant rose for his shot, so did Williams, who swatted the shot away into the stands.
The Huskies had one more shot with less than a second left, but Williams took that away by knocking the inbound pass away. He then ran to midcourt, where his teammates piled on and the fans started a chant of “One more year!”
“I really can’t explain it — it’s unexplainable,” Williams told the Associated Press as he rested his pinky on a bag of ice. “It’s just a great feeling. It’s really good we got that win.”
ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYS LISTED SO FAR (Click on link to access blogs that pertain to the following)
— Khalid Reeves’ coast-to-coast game-winner with less the five seconds beats Stanford at Maples Pavilion in 1992.
— Steve Kerr’s first shot after father’s assassination, a 25-foot jumper against ASU, gives him hero status in Tucson and contributes to Arizona’s emergence in the Pac-10.
— Sean Rook’s last-second bank shot at Stanford in 1991 gives the Wildcats a 78-76 victory.
— Salim Stoudamire’s game-winning jumper against Oklahoma State in the 2005 Sweet 16.
— Sean Elliott’s free throw breaks Lew Alcindor’s conference scoring record in 1989.
— Craig McMillan’s McClutch shot at the buzzer from full-court pass from Steve Kerr against Oregon State in 1986.
— Arizona 6-10 center Bob Elliott’s 35-foot jumper at the buzzer beats Kansas State in 1973.
— Sean Elliott downs Duke with three-pointer over Danny Ferry in last minute in 1989.
— Miles Simon’s 65-foot bank shot as time expired to beat Cincinnati in Phoenix in 1996.
— Tom Tolbert’s no-look, twisting shot against North Carolina in the 1988 Elite Eight.
Williams’ finishing flourish capped off a memorable night.
The atmosphere at McKale Center had some electricity with what was Arizona’s biggest game since Sean Miller became coach in 2009. The conference’s two highest-scoring teams put on a show amid a whiteout at McKale Center.
“I was so caught up in emotion, I think I said ‘good win,’ (to Washington coach Lorenzo Romar after the game),” Miller said. “What I meant to say, what a game. It’s a shame one team had to lose.”
“Derrick Williams was obviously a monster,” Romar added.