To be fair, there are a lot of significant blocked shots in Arizona basketball history that we could talk about. Whether it was Richard Jefferson’s iconic block on Michigan State’s Jason Richardson in the 2001 Final Four, or Loren Woods’ block that was incorrectly called a goaltend vs UConn, point is there are a lot of different plays we could talk about (and I didn’t even mention Kirk Hinrich’s block on Jason Gardner in the 2003 Elite Eight… oops).
But the two blocks I want to talk about are from more recent history. Last year, we were delighted by Nick Johnson’s game-saving Christmas day block against San Diego St, just two years after Derrick Williams’ monster block to seal the deal versus Washington on White-out day. Take a closer look at each of the legendary plays, and decide for yourself which one is the best rejection in Arizona hoops history!
Oh, what a magical day. Not only did Arizona score a big win against a Washington program that had the Cats’ number, but Wildcat fans got to revel in the tears of the Huskies who were forced to watch the replay on ESPN over and over again. Despite their bitter cries, the video is clear that the ball was not on it’s downward trajectory, and it was indeed the correct call.
It was one of the most heroic performances in Arizona basketball history, in which Williams led the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds. It was his second game in a row with more than 25 points, and it was his sixth of the season. Williams also got his ninth double-double of the season that night.
And Williams’ play before the big block was equally impressive, he hit a crucial three to give Arizona the lead and came up with a critical steal in the final minutes of play. If there was one thing we learned that day, it was that Derrick Williams really is Superman.
Even people who don’t celebrate the holiday had a merry Christmas, courtesy of Nick Johnson. He might as well have worn a red suit and drove a sleigh of reindeer, because Johnson was more popular than Santa Claus that December 25th.
On a defensive play that appeared to have broken down, Johnson took flight for one of the most excellent recoveries I’ve ever been witness to. Arizona fans’ hearts sunk as Chase Tapley exposed an open lane to the basket before Johnson blew the roof off with the game saver, a play that was a microcosm of the roller coaster ride that the game was.
It was one of the most unique conditions in Wildcat lore. Not only was it Christmas day, but the Cats were in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii playing a very talented SDSU team. Little did we know the best present of the day would come on the game’s final play.
Not only was the scene perfect, the implications of the block were even more significant. Arizona closed out their non-conference schedule at a perfect 12-0, preserving their undefeated record, thanks to Johnson’s gravity-defying hops and defensive instincts.
So which block was better, Williams’ or Johnson’s? Either way, both plays will live on for the rest of Arizona basketball history.