Deron starts with D: Illini guard shuts down Garcia
The Louisville standout scored a season-low four points on 2 of 10 shooting.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Deron Williams' defensive effort will be considered one of the best ever in the Final Four.
The junior guard from Illinois harassed Francisco Garcia of Louisville for 40 minutes Saturday night and the top-ranked Illini advanced to the NCAA tournament championship game with a 72-57 victory.
It didn't seem possible that Williams could top what he did in the Illini's remarkable comeback win over Arizona in the regional finals -- but top it he did.
"I told Coach I wanted him (Garcia) right after the Arizona game," Williams said. "I always want the best player on the other team."
Garcia, a versatile player who has driven many a defense crazy with his ability to shoot the 3, couldn't do anything against Williams except miss shots.
"It was frustrating. I couldn't make an easy shot," Garcia said. "I just couldn't knock down my shots."
Despite giving away 4 inches to the 6-foot-7 Garcia, Williams found a way to beat him to every spot by fighting through screens and showing the same tenacity he did in shutting down Salim Stoudamire of Arizona last weekend, holding him to 2-of-13 shooting.
Garcia came in averaging 16.0 points on 44 percent shooting, including 37 percent from 3-point range.
"I knew he was such a big part of their offense that stopping him was taking a big chunk out of their offense," Williams said.
Garcia had a season-low four points on 2-for-10 shooting Saturday, only the sixth time this season he scored in single digits. In the first four games of the tournament, Garcia averaged 21 points, including 13 in a foul-plagued effort in the regional final win over West Virginia. The other games were all over 20 points.
Not with Williams there.
The play that best summed up his effort came with 7 1/2 minutes left.
Louisville had just called a timeout after Luther Head's 3-pointer gave Illinois a 58-49 lead. Teams coached by the likes of Rick Pitino always come out of a timeout with a set play that usually results in a score, or at least a good look.
The inbounds pass was going to Garcia right in front of the Louisville bench. Williams beat him there and tipped the ball away for a turnover. The Illini went on to add three more points to the lead before the Cardinals scored again.
That play may not have compared to the steals he made in the final minutes of the win over Arizona, but it took some more life out of Louisville and helped the Illini move into their first national championship game.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber knew the assignment was perfect for Williams.
"What we found as the season progressed is if he's on somebody that's good with the basketball, he concentrates," Weber said. "If it's a good player, he really takes pride in stopping them. He's almost worse if we put him on the fourth- or fifth-best guy, he kind of relaxes. He just never let Francisco get going."