One by one, like knights trying to pull the sword from the stone, Arizona State took turns trying to stop the Pac-10's most dominant player.

The Sun Devils played their vaunted zone, trapping, double- and triple-teaming Derrick Williams in the middle of the key.

Then they switched to a press, then an out-of-character man-to-man, trying to find an answer.

There was none.

Williams scored 31 points, tying a career high he set just 10 days ago, to lead the Arizona Wildcats past ASU 80-69 Saturday at McKale Center.

At 15-3 and 4-1 in Pac-10 play, the Wildcats have ensured that Thursday's game against Washington will be for first place in the league.

Williams stepped to the free- throw line 16 times, making all but one, and now has shot almost half of his team's free throws in conference play.

Three times Saturday, he registered three-point plays.

A whopping seven ASU players - from 6-foot-2-inch point guard Jamelle McMillan to 7-2 center Jordan Bachynski - fouled Williams while he was shooting.

"He's such a mismatch," said UA coach Sean Miller, whose team is 11-0 at McKale Center. "If you're too big, he's too quick for you. If you're not big enough, he's become physically bigger and stronger and he overpowers you.

"A year ago, the second part of the equation wasn't as pronounced. He wasn't as comfortable overpowering you. Now he can do both."

It's hard to overstate the focus on Williams. In the first five minutes, frustrated by ASU's 1-2-2 zone, Williams managed just one shot, which he missed, and the UA trailed 12-6.

When the Wildcats went ahead for good, leading the charge were Williams and forward Jesse Perry, who started and scored 13 points.

Williams dunked to start a 16-4 run in which he and Perry, a junior college transfer, combined for 13 points.

"They had like five different guys on me, just trying to throw different attacks at me to see what I would do and how I would react," Williams said. "It worked the first five minutes.

"As soon as I started getting more active, everything else started opening up."

Forwards Williams, Perry, Jamelle Horne and Solomon Hill scored 59 of the UA's 80 points.

"They just have to pick their poison," Williams said. "They can either guard me and (Hill and Perry) are going to be open, especially in the zone, or they can guard them, and I'm going to be wide open in the middle."

The Wildcats' 35 rebounds were 14 more than ASU; their 14 on the offensive end bested the Sun Devils by 10.

"I wish I had an easy answer," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "It's hard enough to stop a team like Arizona on the first try, let alone the second, third or fourth tries."

The Sun Devils (9-8, 1-4) were short on first-half firepower, playing 11 minutes without leading scorer Trent Lockett, who was whistled twice within the first five minutes.

The Wildcats' nine-point halftime lead appeared safe for the first seven minutes of the second frame.

ASU, which shot 52.1 percent, closed the lead with unusual pieces on the floor.

Marcus Jackson, a former walk-on, had played only 50 minutes all season entering Saturday. Bachynski, 21, who came to ASU after a Mormon mission, had appeared in only 60 minutes of action.

The two combined to score seven in a row to cut the UA lead to seven. A jumper by Lockett, ASU's leading scorer with 17 points before fouling out, and a dunk by Carrick Felix shortened the deficit to five with 8:28 to play.

But the UA scored eight of the next 10 points to pull away. Williams was 8 for 8 on free throws the rest of the way.

Williams has "emerged as one of the special players in college basketball," Miller said.

To prove that to a rival, before a season-best crowd of 14,601, was extra sweet, given the fact that ASU had won three straight at McKale.

"Any coach that doesn't recognize this game's really important," Miller said, "is not giving you the whole story."