ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the last times Derrick Williams came home to play basketball, things didn't go well for Arizona.
The Wildcats arrived in Los Angeles with a two-game lead in the Pac-10 standings and got swept by Southern California and UCLA. Williams scored a season-low eight points against the Trojans before rebounding with 15 points against the Bruins.
The Wildcats hung on in their final two games to win the league's regular-season title and Williams was named Pac-10 Player of the Year.
Now, the sophomore from La Mirada is close to home again, this time for the biggest game of his college career.
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (29-7) play the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils (32-4) in the NCAA West Regional
tonight at Honda Center (9:45 p.m., Ch. 4).
Williams was besieged with ticket requests, although he'll be able to satisfy only his family.
"Not that many people have that much money to spend on a 40-minute game, but a lot of people will be at a pizza place, someplace that has a lot of TVs, gather around and watch the games right there," he said.
The Wildcats practiced Wednesday at Williams' old high school in La Mirada, 15 minutes from the Orange County arena.
"Going back to my high school brought back a lot of memories," he said. "My senior season we won the league championship. That was the best thing my school has had basketball-wise, first time since '82 that we had a league championship."
Another Arizona starter, Kyle Fogg, grew up 10 minutes away in Brea, while reserve Alex Jacobson is from nearby Santa Ana. Jordin Mayes and starter Solomon Hill are both from Los Angeles.
"It's good to be home, but we're here for business right now," Fogg said.
And Arizona's goal is to knock off the defending national champions, whose .762 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament is the best ever.
"It's never to your advantage going against them in this tournament," second-year Arizona coach Sean Miller said.
Giving the Blue Devils a postseason boost is Kyrie Irving, who returned at the start of the tournament after missing 26 games with an injured right toe. He averaged 12.5 points in their first two wins, a blowout of Hampton and a two-pointer against Michigan.
The freshman point guard won't start Thursday, although coach Mike Krzyzewski said he will play several minutes.
In the opening game in Anaheim (7:15 p.m., Ch. 4), second-seeded San Diego State, playing just a short drive from campus, takes on sixth-seeded Connecticut, which ran the table in the Big East Tournament and won its first two NCAA games.
Around the nation
*Wichita State seniors Gabe Blair and J.T. Durley made their final home game memorable, combining for 30 points and leading the Shockers (27-8) past the College of Charleston (26-11), 82-75, in an NIT quarterfinal. Wichita State advanced to the semifinals in New York City, where it will face Northwestern or Washington State. Freshman guard Trevor Releford scored 22 points to lead Alabama (24-11) to a 79-64 victory over Miami (21-15) and the Crimson Tide will play Colorado in the other semifinal.
*Mike Anderson is returning to Arkansas to become the school's basketball coach. The school confirmed the move on Wednesday night. Anderson leaves Missouri after five seasons to return to the school where he was an assistant to Nolan Richardson.