ANAHEIM, Calif. – By the time Superman untangled his cape and nearly came to the Arizona Wildcats’ rescue again, it proved a little too late.
Derrick Williams played just seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble and Connecticut, which had rattled off a 9-0 run in his absence, eventually took a 65-63 win over the Wildcats in the NCAA West Regional.
With UConn leading 65-63 and 20 seconds left, Arizona set up a final play but both Jamelle Horne and Williams missed three-pointers and time expired. Horne, the lone UA senior who had made two key plays down the stretch, then walked off the court in disgust, but turned around for postgame handshakes.
The loss ended UA’s surprisingly successful season at 30-8, while Connecticut (30-9) will move on to the Final Four in Houston and face the winner of Sunday’s East Regional final game between Kentucky and North Carolina.
By improving to 5-0 all-time against Arizona, Connecticut also reached the Final Four for the fourth time through the West Regional. The Huskies did so three prior times all through games held in the Phoenix area.
It was the third time Arizona had suffered painful West Regional losses at the Honda Center, formerly known as the Pond. In 1998, the defending national champion Wildcats were crushed by Utah in the semifinal and in 2003, Arizona lost to Kansas in the final despite having a team rated No. 1 entering the season.
Arizona nearly did turn around from Williams' absence and a 32-25 halftime deficit, taking several brief second-half leads, and it came down to the final minute as it did in both of UA’s first two NCAA tournament wins.
With 1:47 to go, Kyle Fogg hit a three-pointer to cut Connecticut’s lead to just 63-60 but Kemba Walker answered with an 18-footer to put the Huskies up by five.
After a jump ball and possession arrow to Arizona, Horne hit a three-pointer with 1:01 left to cut UConn's lead to just 65-63 and, with 25 seconds left, Horne rebounded a missed UConn shot and UA called timeout to set up a final play that failed to produce a Final Four.
Williams finished with 20 points, tying Walker for game-high scoring. But UConn also had 19 points from Jeremy Lamb.
Jesse Perry had 14 points and seven rebounds for UA, while Fogg had 11.
With seven minutes to go, after UA trailed by up to nine, Perry slammed down a dunk on an assist from Fogg on the left side, giving UA a 53-52 lead.
MoMo Jones was so wired into Williams' face after that one that he practically had to be pulled off the court and into a timeout huddle.
The Wildcats eventually made it a 14-2 run when Williams sank two free throws to make it 55-52.
But UConn responded with six straight points, getting the last basket of that stretch when Lamb stole a pass from Williams with 3:16 left and ran down court for a dunk that gave UConn a 10-0 run of its own to take a 62-55 lead by the time Lamb stole a pass from Williams and raced downcourt for a dunk.
Earlier in the second half, Shabazz Napier gave the Huskies their biggest lead of the game, 50-41, UA scored six straight points, getting a reverse layin from Jones, a steal-and-dunk from Perry and another dunk from Williams.
Arizona made it a 9-0 run when Fogg tied the game briefly with a three-pointer with 15:25 left, while Williams later scored on the baseline to give UA a 37-36 lead.
But UConn came back with a 7-0 run of its own, capped by a three-pointer from Lamb that made it 43-37.
At the beginning of the second half, Perry and his teammates took advantage of a couple of nice openings inside. Williams passed him the ball from the perimeter for a dunk that made it 34-29 and then Solomon Hill did a short flip to Perry from the left of the basket, and Perry put it in to cut UConn's lead to 34-31 with 17:16 to go.
In the first half, Williams spent only seven minutes on the floor because of foul trouble and UA fell to a 32-25 halftime deficit after leading by up to eight earlier in the half.
UA shot 29.7 percent from the field and made only 1 of 11 three-pointers but outrebounded UConn 25-19. Nine Wildcats attempted three-pointers but only Williams made one.
Williams picked up fouls at 18:07 and 16:47, then sat down for just over six minutes – and promptly earned himself a third whistle upon returning.
On the third foul, Williams slapped UConn’s Roscoe Smith.
Without Williams on the floor, the Huskies rattled off nine straight points. At the end of the run Napier gave the Huskies their first lead, 19-18 with 7:43 to go after he nailed a three-pointer and then, on UA's ensuing possession, stole the ball near midcourt from Jones and took it in for a layup.
The Huskies then held on to the lead the rest of the half, being led by Walker, who had 12 points.
Williams and Jones each had six points to lead UA, which shot only 29.7 percent from the field but outrebounded UConn 25-19.
Both teams struggled to shoot well over most of the first half, with UA missing three-point tries midway through the half by Jordin Mayes and Kevin Parrom.
Mayes had made 10 straight three pointers dating back to UA’s Pac-10 Tournament semifinal win over USC on March 11.
UA made just 35 percent of its shots through the first nine minutes but UConn was just 2 of 10 at that point.
Arizona started off strongly, holding UConn without a field goal for the first four and half minutes and held a 11-5 lead at the first media timeout (15:00).
UA had an early 10-4 rebounding edge, with Hill grabbing six of them.