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Arizona announces its revival with second-half demolition of Duke


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Choose a memory from one of the epic beatdowns of basketball's royal family. That's the problem, isn't it? You can't. There isn't just one enduring image from Arizona's 93-77 backhanding of Duke.

You could choose Derrick Williams who put the "I" in team -- thankfully for the Wildcats -- by scoring 25 of his team's 38 points in the first half and 32 for the game.

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You could unboggle your mind by recalling dunks by Williams and Jamelle Horne 75 seconds apart in the second half. That's dunk -- plural -- on Duke. In a half.

You could practically see the Blue Devils gasping for breath as Arizona coach Sean Miller ran 10 players at Duke. Eight of them played at least 12 minutes.

You could feel a tinge of nostalgia for Lute Olson in the stands watching his creation being passed to the next generation.

But the game's emotional snapshot had to be an overwhelming sense of pity. The Blue Devils ended up red-faced. They got boat-raced by a team they were leading by eight early in the second half. Duke doesn't blow those types of leads, it applies the choke hold. It happened in such a blur you wanted to hit the stop button, rewind, and break down Duke's breakdown. There have been worse beatings over the years, but in the end it had that April 6, 1990 feel about it. You remember that one -- UNLV 103, Duke 73 in the national championship game.

Arizona isn't Tark's Rebels. Or are they?

A team that has arrived early in terms of getting to an Elite Eight had it all over the powerhouse that has squatter's rights in the bracket. As the result sunk in, inside the Wildcats locker room they were starting to call it the best 30 minutes in Arizona history. When was the last time you saw Duke outrebounded 25-9 in a half?

The king is dead, long live Sean Miller, 42 years young who added stability to a crumbling program in two seasons on the job. Then he coached circles around Coach K on Thursday. There was a dinner Wednesday night, recalled one staffer, when Miller showed film detailing Duke's high screens. Duke does it to everyone. Everyone knows it's coming. It's still hard to defend. Miller adjusted at halftime. The Wildcats rolled.

"That [second half] was like a second game," Miller said. "We were a total team. We were revved up. We had a lot of guys playing at a very high level."

Try the stratosphere. With 16:19 left, Duke led 53-47. Arizona scored 19 of the next 21 points. Six different players scored. The Blue Devils, you could see it in their faces, were stunned. The Wildcats shot 58 percent in the second half. It's hard to miss when you're having the best 3-point shooting game in team tournament history (nine of 15, 60 percent). It's a breeze when you're scoring the second-most points in a half (55) by the school in the NCAA tournament.

"It's happened to me before," Mike Krzyzewski said, "not that many times where all of the sudden you just can't stop 'em ... We just couldn't stop 'em."

That's what happens when you mess with chemistry. Krzyzewski had the luxury of bringing a top NBA Draft pick, Kyrie Irving, off the bench. Just kidding about the chemistry thing. Irving had 28 in the 11th game of his college career which could be his last before going to the NBA.

With Irving gone, this region still might have the two best players remaining in the tournament. UConn's Kemba Walker had 36 in the first game against San Diego State. Williams was a one-man show in the first half when the Wildcats were still finding their legs. The sophomore, who won Arizona's first two tournament games with last-second winning plays on defense (Memphis) and offense (Texas), took everything over on Thursday.

In the second half the scoring was more spread out, but Williams' final line -- 32 points, 13 rebounds -- left an imprint on Duke's backsides. They got spanked. Williams' total matched Khalid Reeves' school tournament record set 17 years ago.

"I think that's the best half I've seen a player play," Horne said. "That guy kept us in the game in the first half."

Unfortunately, the world was denied Coach K's run at Bobby Knight's Division I wins record. Krzyzewski remains stuck on 900 wins. Another trip to a Final Four would have tied him with the Dark Knight. Anything to class up the top of that list would have been welcome. Instead there is the return of a "new" blood in this bracket to replace the blue blood.

"Makes me feel great that if we win this game on Saturday we're going to be known as one of the best Arizona teams to play," Williams said.

The kid may be underestimating himself. Just think if Derrick Does Houston.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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