SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Williams had 12 points for the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night in a 78-69 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, helping send his team to the Final Four.

It seems lately that the athletic big man is the one who signals the end of a Duke victory with a massive dunk.

Well, he did it again against the Hogs, throwing down this dagger late in the second half to give the Blue Devils a 17-point lead that truly felt insurmountable:

Earlier in the game, he had this incredible putback slam:

He ended the game as 1 of 4 Duke players with double-digit points. AJ Griffin had a team-high 18. Paolo Banchero had 16. Wendell Moore Jr. had 14. Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels both had 9 points in a truly balanced offensive showing.

But, it’s actually on the other end of the floor where Williams makes his biggest impact on the game. He grabbed 12 rebounds, including 9 defensive boards. He blocked 3 shots, but he altered at least 10 others, making life miserable for the Hogs in the paint.

His play on both ends of the floor is a big reason why Duke outscored Arkansas 46-34 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 34-25.

On Thursday, in the win over Texas Tech, switching back to man-to-man defense from a zone look was a big key to Duke’s success late. This time around, though, Williams gave credit to the zone defense.

“I think going zone helped,” he said. “It gave them a different look, slowed them up a little bit. Obviously, (JD Notae) was trying to get downhill a lot, so I was doing my best to protect the rim. I thought that was important for us.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the plan was to let Williams do what he does best – protect the rim.

“We just put Mark right in front of the bucket so he didn’t have to defend the ball screen and then get back there,” Coach K said. “Look, he was the player, all these guys played well, but Mark was the difference maker for us today.”

The 9 defensive rebounds Williams grabbed were what impressed his coach the most, though.

“His defensive rebounding was 1 of the 1 or 2 biggest things in this game for us,” he said. “He had 9 defensive rebounds. It’s a possession, time and, if you score, a stop and a score. We needed that. His defensive rebounding, along with the blocks – huge.”

His teammates were quick to praise his efforts, as well. Jeremy Roach noted that Williams’ shot-altering ability is one of the reasons why Duke’s perimeter defense is so good.

“His presence back there is why we’re one of the top defensive teams in the country,” Roach said. “I mean, when guys go to the paint, you know he’s there to either contest the shot or beat it off the glass.

“He’s a hell of a defensive player. Love having him on the court. He makes it so much easier for the guards to really try to pressure the ball. We really don’t have to worry if a guy gets past you, you know Big Fella’s back there to clean it up. … We wouldn’t be here without him.”

We’ve seen dominant big men alter games across college basketball this season. Walker Kessler was a blocking machine at Auburn. Oscar Tshiebwe grabbed rebounds at a historic rate for Kentucky. Armando Bacot was an automatic double-double at North Carolina. Jaylin Williams of Arkansas drew an NCAA-best 54 charges (including a couple on Saturday against Duke).

Saturday night belonged to Mark Williams, though. He was the guy who keyed Duke’s convincing win. Now, he’s cut down 2 sets of nets, and he’s hungry for a third piece of nylon in New Orleans.

Williams is getting some serious first-round buzz ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft, too. There’s no better stage to improve your draft stock than the Final Four.

If Duke is going to advance to next Monday’s title game, Williams is going to have to play a big role on both ends of the court. If Saturday’s performance against Arkansas is any indication, he’s up to the task.

Is it possible he’ll get a third shot against Bacot and the Tar Heels? In the first meeting this year (a win for Duke), Williams had 9 points and 6 rebounds. In the regular-season finale (a Duke loss), he had 16 points and 13 boards. North Carolina is 1 win away from a rubber match against its biggest rival.

But, if it does happen, Williams will be waiting. That’s a scary thought for any potential Duke opponent.