By Parrish Alford / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Last Saturday’s 78-51 win at LSU was a pressure release for the entire Ole Miss team, but perhaps no one benefitted from it more than Nick Williams.
The transfer from Indiana hit a groove he’d not yet shown in SEC play as he finished with 14 points on 5 for 6 shooting, four rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes.
It was Williams’ most scoring in two months. Though his scouting report was more about the hustle plays than points in a box score, expectations increased early when Williams posted 21, 14 and 15 points in a three-game stretch in November against Murray State, Dayton and Penn State.
The star faded, though.
Before Williams hit a groove in Baton Rouge he’d gone eight games without reaching double figures, averaging 4.3 points in that span.
“Prior to league play Nick was a solid third scoring option on the perimeter,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He was playing with a lot of confidence and helping in a number of areas. Since league play he’s not shot well, and he’s not played as aggressive as he needs to be efficient.”
Williams was never advertised as a dominant 3-point shooter but was 7 for 10 behind the arc in his three-game November scoring spree.
He’s 1 for 5 in SEC play but hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer since missing badly against Mississippi State with under 30 seconds to play when a make would have given the Rebels the lead.
On the attack
Williams was more in tune with his game against LSU. The Tigers sat back in the zone, and he attacked it, finishing with floaters in the lane.
Since going 0 for 6 against MSU, Williams has hit nine of his last 15 field-goal attempts. The difference against LSU was his success at the free throw line where he was 4 for 5. He was 0 for 3 against Georgia and did not get to the free the line at Vanderbilt.
“I was just staying within myself. I didn’t try to get ahead of myself,” Williams said. “Coaches told me to keep playing the way I’m playing, and eventually it’s going to come. I’ve been playing OK, but not to my potential.”
As a freshman at Indiana, Williams appeared in 31 games, starting 29. He averaged 8.9 points, numbers that increased to 9.8 in Big 10 games, and 4.5 rebounds.
Williams scored in double figures 14 times including a 19-point effort at Wisconsin.
An Alabama player of the year at LeFlore Prep Academy in Mobile, Williams was rated the nation’s No. 30 prospect by an ESPN-affiliated website.
“We knew LSU was a very winnable game. We just tried to enforce our will and get back in it,” Williams said.
With the Rebels (13-7, 1-4) finally getting into the SEC win column, Williams is hoping both the team and himself can create some positive momentum.
Ole Miss has no mid-week game but faces a couple of tough tasks in Oxford with Tennessee on Saturday and Kentucky on Tuesday.
“LSU zoned us the majority of the game, and Nick got back to attacking the basket,” Kennedy said. “He put pressure on the paint and finished inside. That’s really his game, and this should do wonders for his confidence moving forward.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600