Derrick Williams, left, of Arizona, goes up for a shot and C.J. Williams, behind him, of North Carolina State, can't stop him in the second half. Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

RALEIGH, N.C. - When Derrick Williams arched backward to catch an alley-oop pass from MoMo Jones, then propelled himself forward for a thundering slam dunk in the second half Sunday, it was all too routine for the Arizona Wildcats.

But maybe not to the rest of the country.

Well known in the West after becoming the Pac-10 freshman of the year last season and after starting on a rather torrid note this season, the Wildcats' sophomore forward this time presented his case on Atlantic Coast Conference turf and on national television.

He finished with 22 points, having made 10 of 11 free throws and six oft-electric field goals in nine tries.

"Derrick Williams is a special player and a lot of the accolades he's received early on, he deserved," UA coach Sean Miller said. "He's a great kid and it was great for him to play the way he played in front of a great audience because he's really helped our team get off to a great start."

Miller had criticized Williams' defense and rebounding in recent games, with the Wildcats playing unevenly in a loss to BYU and in wins over Cal State-Fullerton and NAU.

But there wasn't much to criticize this time. Williams had only five rebounds, two under his average, but he did manage two blocks and a steal.

He also popped up in some form just about every time the Wolfpack tried to make a run, either by hitting a midrange jumper, jamming the ball down their throat or picking up a foul.

Williams had an idea it would be that way, too.

"Before we started playing, you could see by their height and weight they were smaller," Williams said. "And I'm quicker than most people my size. I tried to get my shoulders in and draw the contact. Every time I did that, I drew contact and they'd end up fouling me."

Nice homecoming

Sunday's win had reason to be especially sweet for UA coaches Sean and Archie Miller, who both coached at N.C. State. Archie Miller was also a standout guard for the Wolfpack from 1998 to 2002 before starting his coaching career on Herb Sendek's Wolfpack staff.

But that didn't mean their players had to feel that way.

"I'm like every coach: I think they're tired of me. I think they want to go home for Christmas," Miller said, smiling. "They probably don't really know my own history here at N.C. State. And Arch, with him playing here, that actually means more to him than coaching here.

"But our team didn't need motivation to come here. When you play an away game here in this part of the country, you have great respect. I thought we approached the game the right way, and to come here and win is a great win for us."

Tracy sits out

The Wildcats escaped N.C. State forward Tracy Smith, the Wolfpack's leading scorer and rebounder last season, for a second straight time.

Smith, who was suspended from UA's 76-74 win over N.C. State last season, did not play Sunday because of continued knee pain. He underwent arthroscopic surgery Nov. 19, and coach Sidney Lowe had hoped he would return this week when doctors gave him the option to do so.

"I just think it's one of those things where Tracy's gonna have to decide that he can play with a little bit of pain," Lowe said. "The biggest thing is getting over the fear, knowing that structurally everything's OK. We have to be patient with him. The doctors say he's OK, but they can't feel his pain so we have to go with what he says."

Freshman jitters

N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie, a highly touted local recruit who briefly considered Arizona last year, made only 1 of 14 field goal attempts to go with his game-high 11 rebounds.

His mood matched the miserable statistic, the way Lowe explained it.

"He got very frustrated," Lowe said. "He came to me and he told me, 'Coach, I don't know what's going on.' He definitely got frustrated."