With 15 family members watching, over 100 friends cheering, and Slam Dunk Champion and probable NBA Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin looking on, the stage was set for Derrick Williams to once again make jaws drop.
Less than 30 minutes from mom's house against the school he almost called home, Williams had a shot to build off of his game-saving block and prove to his future colleagues why he deserves to be a lottery pick next season, while moving Arizona one step closer toward a Pac-10 title.
But Williams left his fight, tenacity and skill-set on the McKale Center floor. Call it a bad night for an injured big man, but Williams was exposed by USC and its front line in a 65-57 USC win.
The 6-foot-8, 241-pound Williams looked like a boy amongst men, as 6-foot-10 Trojans Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson manhandled him offensively and defensively.
College basketball's most efficient player was locked down by the physical Stepheson (12 points and 10 rebounds), as he scored only eight points on 3-of-11 shooting while turning the ball over three times.
To put that into perspective, Thursday night's performance was Williams' third-lowest scoring output of his career, snapping a streak of 36 straight games where the power forward reached double figures. It was only his fourth career game with less than 10 points, and it came with the pressure on and the lights bright.
Williams was held scoreless for the first 14:42 of the contest and lacked any type of rhythm or aggressiveness. The nation's leader in free throw attempts didn't make his first trip to the charity stripe until there was only 7:20 left in the game. They were the only two free throws he would shoot all night.
D-Will was a ghost offensively, and he disappeared in crunch time. He had a chance to cut USC's four-point lead to one as he hoisted a three with 16 seconds left. The shot fell short, symbolizing Williams' underwhelming night.
It wasn't only offensively that Williams laid an egg. Although the Wildcats helped him out with constant double teams, Vucevic made his case for the best big man in the Pac-10, exploding for 25 points and 12 rebounds on 9-of-17 shooting, without committing a turnover.
His game was smooth and efficient, as he showcased his shooting stroke and feathery touch around the room. Vucevic was Mr. Clutch, scoring 10 points in the final 3:47, while Williams wasted his late-game magic against UW, as he went scoreless in the final seven minutes.
Tonight, Vucevic looked like the NBA lottery pick, not Williams.
Call it a bad night. Blame the injured hand. Say it was a trap game. But Derrick Williams' effort, offensive repertoire and defensive capabilities were exposed Thursday night. And as Williams fell, so did the Wildcats.
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