(The Sports Network)
With a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line, the Texas Longhorns and the Arizona Wildcats meet on the hardwood at the BOK Center in Tulsa today as part of third-round action in the West Regional of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Longhorns, who are trying to get back to the round of 16 for the sixth time in the last 10 years, had their hands full in their opening game on Friday but managed to slip by the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in an 85-81 final. For a program that has allowed opponents a mere 61.9 ppg this season, it marked the second straight game in which a Texas foe had reached at least 80 points.
As for the fifth-seeded Wildcats, winners of the national title back in 1997 and owners of a 44-25 record in the NCAA Tournament overall after vacating appearances in both 1999 and 2008, they took care of a pesky Memphis group in the second round of the tourney by posting a slim 77-75 win on Friday.
In terms of the all-time series between these two teams, Arizona leads by a count of 8-2, with the most recent meeting coming in 2003-04 with the Wildcats recording a 91-83 victory during the Jimmy V Classic in New York. Texas won the first two meetings back in 1950 and 1971, respectively, both on neutral floors.
The winner of this meeting will head to the Sweet 16 and contend against the winner of the Michigan/Duke battle.
Derrick Williams did the job at both ends of the floor for the Wildcats two days ago as he registered a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and also blocked a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds to secure the two-point win for Arizona. Williams, who shot 6-of-11 from the field and made his only three-point try, showed great touch at the free-throw line where he converted all nine of his attempts. Also scoring in double figures for the Wildcats was Lamont Jones with 18 points as he too reaped the benefits of heading to the charity stripe (7-of-8). As a group, Arizona made good on 26- of-31 foul shots, compared to 17-of-24 for the Tigers. One of the most dominant performers in the Pac-10 Conference this season, Williams averages 30 minutes per game and during that time can be counted on for 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per outing. Unfortunately, Arizona doesn't have any other double- digit scorers to speak of right now, although Jones (9.8 ppg) did show that he case rise to the occasion in order to help the cause.
By no means was it an easy win for the Longhorns over Oakland in the second round of the tournament a couple days back, but Texas made it happen by nailing 17-of-21 free throws in the second half to secure the four-point win. J'Covan Brown led UT in scoring with 21 points, hitting all 12 of his chances at the charity stripe off the bench while adding six rebounds and three assists, but the real star of the game for Texas was Tristan Thompson who nearly pulled off a remarkable triple-double with his 17 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocked shots. Jordan Hamilton also played big in the paint with his 19 points and 10 boards, while Cory Joseph connected on a pair of three-pointers to arrive at 11 points, as the squad outscored the Golden Grizzlies by a margin of 21-8 at the free-throw line. Thompson has been a menace in the paint all season long, from his 13.4 ppg and 7.9 rpg, to his 82 blocked shots over the course of 35 contests. But the tougher matchup for opponents continues to come against Hamilton (18.7 ppg), who not only is second on the unit with 7.7 rpg, he is also one of the most productive three- point shooters in the Big 12 Conference with 87-of-227 accuracy in his 35 starts.
Clearly Williams is a threat every time he touches the ball for the Wildcats, but as long as the big men for Texas can stay out of foul trouble and remain productive on the glass they might be too much for even Williams to combat.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas 78, Arizona 74