By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The depth of a friendship can allow two guys to weather many storms.
Apparently rebounding is not one of those storms.
Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy had called on his veteran players for greater production in the absence of Murphy Holloway, whose points and rebounds were sorely missed as the Rebels lost four times in a five-game stretch.
Holloway, though, took credit for sparking Nick Williams in the Rebels’ 81-73 win over Arkansas Wednesday.
Ole Miss (11-5) drew even in SEC play at 1-1 and returns to the road Saturday at Auburn.
Holloway was the story of the game with his fifth double-double, 19 points and 14 rebounds, playing for the first time since Dec. 21 when he sustained a severely sprained ankle against Middle Tennessee.
Williams was an impressive sub-plot with with 18 points on 7 for 13 shooting, 7 for 10 inside the 3-point line where he hurt the Hogs with his mid-range game and leaners in the lane.
He was also effective on the glass.
Williams was trading blows on the blocks with Arkansas frontcourt players Devonta Abron, Michael Sanchez and Marvell Waithe, who go 6-8, 6-9 and 6-9.
Giving up almost a half foot of height at 6-4, Williams outrebounded each one of them, hauling in eight boards as the Rebels had a 48-26 rebounding edge.
“I told him he needed to step up. I told him if he didn’t get more than five rebounds he wasn’t going to be my friend no more. I guess he wants to be my friend,” Holloway said.
Williams had started each of the previous 15 games. He came off the bench against Arkansas but still played 34 minutes, the third-most he’s played this season.
A junior from Mobile and transfer from Indiana, Williams said he “played mad,” because he wasn’t starting but followed that up by saying, “Whatever helps the team, I’m all for it.”
He was replaced in the lineup by Memphis transfer guard Jelan Kendrick, an effort to get another ball-handler on the floor, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Williams’ 18 points were a season-high. He was averaging 8.3 and had reached double figures in just four of the previous 15 games.
He savored the moments following an aggressive offensive performance.
“That’s my game. I can’t be settling for threes, obviously. I missed all three of mine,” he said. “I’ve got to get in the lane and be tough. That’s what I do.”