Final Score: Arizona 77 Memphis 75
Arizona, the Pac-10 regular season Champions, survived a stern challenge by Memphis, and their own backcourt ball handling challenges, especially in the last half minute of the game, and the protestations of Memphis Coach Josh Pastner, formerly an Arizona assistant during the Lute Olsen years, to hold on to a 2 point win.
With the win, the Wildcats (28-7), who were a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, advanced to Sunday's round of 32, where they will meet Texas, 85-81 winners over the Oakland Golden Grizzlies earlier in the day in Tulsa, OK. Arizona became the second Pac-10 team, joining UCLA who won yesterday by a nearly identical 78-76 score over Michigan St., to advance.
Derrick Williams led the 'Cats with a 22 point, 10 rebound performance that topped everybody in both categories, and had given Arizona a 68-65 lead with less than 4 minutes left to go, sinking his only three pointer of the game. But the ball and the game wound up in Lamont "MoMo" Jones' hands going down the stretch.
Jones, who finished with 18 points, hit his biggest shot of the game, a three pointer, with 1:37 left to break a 68-68 tie. After Jordan Mayes extended the lead to 73-68 with a pair of free throws, and Memphis' Will Barton answered, it was left to Jones to get the ball out of back court, and "MoMo" didn't get the memo from Arizona Coach Sean Miller to waste no time doing so.
An earlier possession saw the 'Cats get the ball over midcourt more than 9 seconds into the possession, and it was a hint of trouble to come.
With the 'Cats trying to hold onto a three point lead, Jones got trapped in the corner of back court, and had to use Arizona's last time out with 33 seconds left to avoid turning the ball over. After discussing things, the 'Cats only got the ball upcourt after the Tigers' deflected a pass out of bounds on the sidelines with 25 seconds left.
Once Arizona got the ball into front court, Jamelle Horne drew a foul, and reopened a 5 point lead. The Tigers' Joe Jackson drew a foul, and drew Memphis back within 75-72 less than 4 seconds later.
W. Barton promptly stole the 'Cats' inbounds pass, and though he missed the three pointer to tie the game, Jackson's putback made it a one point game with 8 seconds left.
Arizona put the ball in Jones' hands again, and he converted both free throws for a 77-74 lead with 7.4 seconds left. Jones fouled Jackson at Miller's direction, and with 5 seconds left, Jackson hit the first free throw.
After the intentional miss, the Tigers' Wesley Witherspoon got the rebound, but Williams got a clean block on Witherspoon's shot to tie the game with 3 seconds left to preserve the win.
Antonio Barton led four Tigers in double figures, with 17 points, while W. Barton had 12. Bother Witherspoon and Jackson added 10 points apiece off the Memphis bench.
No one besides Williams and Jones was in double figures for Arizona, as Kyle Fogg was in a fog much of the game, and finished with just 4 points and 2 assists.
The game had been close all the way, with the largest lead being 8 points, on a Williams free throw that capped a 7-0 Arizona run early in the second half.
In a game where rebounding was dead even, and shooting from both inside and outside the three point arc were close, it was at the free throw line that the Wildcats got the win, connecting on 26 of 31 attempts, 84%, while the Tigers were only 17 of 24, 71%, still good, but significantly short of what Arizona did. Williams was a perfect 9 of 9, and Jones connected on 7 of 8.
Texas (28-7), the number four seed in the West Regional, who finished second to Kansas in the Big XII in both the regular season and the conference tournament, had opened a 17 point second half lead over Oakland, and still lead by 15 points with 4 minutes left, but the Golden Grizzlies rallied to make the Longhorns sweat at the end.
Texas got double doubles from both Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson. Hamilton had 19 points, and Thompson 17, while both pulled down 10 rebounds each.