After three of the longest seconds in Arizona basketball history were finally over, Derrick Williams held his near-magical right hand up and out of the pile of giddy teammates who toppled over him near the center line of Lute and Bobbi Olson Court.
With trainer Justin Kokoskie racing over to protect the hand from being crushed by an inadvertent body part, Williams' severely sprained right pinkie was out of danger. As was, at least for now, the Wildcats' grip on first place in the Pac-10 Conference.
Williams led the way to Arizona's 87-86 win over Washington with 26 points, 11 rebounds and a clutch block of the Huskies' Darnell Gant with a second left, though it ultimately wasn't skill as much as heart and hustle that gave the Wildcats' their eighth straight win and further control of the conference race.
Arizona, after all, coughed up 18 turnovers, had 10 shots blocked and hit only 38.7 percent from inside the three-point arc. But it out-rebounded Washington 35-22 and hit 11 often clutch three-pointers in 18 tries.
Williams had the last of those threes, from the left corner that gave Arizona an 85-84 lead with two minutes left, and he also had the block of Gant to add to his nightly highlight reel.
But while UA coach Sean Miller praised Williams again with adjectives he is fast running out of, Miller also couldn't forget about all the times forward Kevin Parrom raced downcourt to foul or stop Huskies from making breakaway layups.
Or any other number of hustle plays other Wildcats made.
"I don't know how many shots (Parrom) ran down but you look at his effort level, and how hard he played, we had a number of guys that you're just really proud of when they play like that," Miller said. "We made mistakes but at the end we won because of our effort, our toughness and our resiliency."
Instead of publicly questioning whether Williams' block was actually a goaltending call that the officials did not make - "it's not going to change anything whether it was or wasn't," he said - UW coach Lorenzo Romar, too, complimented the Wildcats.
"Arizona played hard. They were scrappy," Romar said. "Derrick Williams was obviously a monster. I thought MoMo Jones did a good job running the team."
Together, the Wildcats pulled off what was their eighth straight win, moving to 23-4 overall and 12-2 in the Pac-10 while Washington dropped to 18-8 and 10-5. Arizona now sits a game and a half ahead of UCLA, which faces California today and hosts the Wildcats on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
"The window starts shutting for a conference championship with every game that we play," Miller said. "The bottom line is we didn't win anything tonight. We may have hurt Washington's chances but for us when you look at the standings, there are four very pivotal games left. Two on the road and two at home. I like our chances at home, I will tell you that."
Miller and the UA players made available for post-game interviews raved about the McKale Center fans, all but a handful of whom wore white at the request of UA's marketing department.
The Huskies, wearing black uniforms laced with purple that added contrast to the occasion, did their best to spoil the occasion on the floor.
After UA rolled to an early 11-2 lead and was up 49-40 by halftime, the Wildcats began sputtering in the second half. They had seven turnovers in the first five minutes after halftime, and the Huskies gradually closed what was up to a 12-point UA lead.
The Huskies went on a 9-0 run while taking their first lead of the game, 70-68, with 8:28 left, with Washington guards Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton repeatedly finding Matthew Bryan-Amaning under the basket off high-post screens. Bryan-Amaning, who finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, dunked to give Washington a 72-68 lead with 7:59 left and the momentum was clearly changing.
A technical foul on forward Solomon Hill, who said he was whistled for not looking when an official told him to look at him, didn't help, either.
"Second half we tried to get out and run but it didn't work," forward Hill said. "Once MoMo started slowing it down and we ran plays, it ran in our favor. We started getting D-Will the ball in the post. I think we just were trying to stay at their pace, and once we started forcing our (slower) pace we were able to do good things."
At the end, Williams made his mark on defense. With the bandaged right hand, he blocked a shot from Gant and tipped an ensuing Husky inbounds pass as time expired to make the difference.
Until that point, the Wildcats were hanging on with effort, tenacity - and mistakes.
Hill scored under the basket after Jesse Perry was blocked with 25 seconds to go, giving UA an 87-86 lead. The Huskies then called timeout with 17.5 seconds left to set up a final play.
Bryan-Amaning was called for traveling with three seconds left, when he backed into Williams, but UA botched an inbounds pass when Hill threw the ball low and it bounced out of bounds off Jones' foot.
Washington then had 2.2 seconds left and the ball to inbound from the baseline. But Justin Holiday passed to Gant, whose shot was blocked out of bounds by Williams and, after that final inbound pass failed to result in a basket, Williams was clobbered by his own players.
And once he got up, the hopeful fans shouted "One More Year" repeatedly at the super sophomore who may have not only put his name in the national player of the year discussion Saturday, but also may have cemented his place in June's NBA draft lottery.
When asked if the "one more year" chants were wishful thinking, Miller smiled and said he would simply deal with that issue when it arises. Williams also skillfully dodged the question by talking not about the future but about what has become, for the Wildcats, a glorious present.
"You know, games like that make me want to stay," he said. "I came in with four other guys. That's all I can say. We'll see after the season."
• What: Arizona at USC
• When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM