Williamson helps WVU men's basketball team
MORGANTOWN -- Many of the 6,252 who sneaked inside the Coliseum Monday night to watch West Virginia beat Tennessee Tech will remember the 3-pointers Paul Williamson made on consecutive possessions in the first half.
That was the thrill in a game that didn't produce many others. That's what the freshman walk-on from Logan High School does and why he's 7-for-10 in 47 minutes of seven games this season.
What really got the Mountaineers going in the 72-53 win were his two assists to teammate Kevin Jones for easy inside baskets.
The Mountaineers were stuck on offense and guilty of not sharing the ball against the Tennessee Tech zone. Coach Bob Huggins put Williamson into the game with 11:06 to go in the first half and WVU ahead 12-10.
Williams had his baskets early and then his assists late in a 13-3 run that helped WVU (8-2) win its fourth consecutive game and move to 2-0 in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
"I really believe it did," Williamson said. "The one thing Coach Huggins stresses is moving the ball, especially against a zone defense. When you move the ball and they're running around hectically, they're not going to be able to match up and get everyone in line where they're supposed to be."
Williamson made his first - and only - two shots and got the attention of the Golden Eagles defense. He was pressured the next time he got the ball, but he patiently dribbled left while Jones got open and then skipped a pass inside so Jones could turn and score. A while later, the ball wound up with Williamson in the corner and the defense found him, but that left Jones some space that Williamson exploited.
Not long after that, Williamson dove to steal a ball and then flicked it ahead to Truck Bryant to start a fast break. Bryant was fouled, but made two free throws. Near the end of the first half, Williamson found Jones on the right baseline in one of his favorite spots for a third assist and a third simple basket.
For a team that struggles to find easy scores, Williamson gave WVU 14 rather easy points as it took a 33-26 lead at the half.
"We needed Paul and we're going to keep needing Paul," Jones said. "He's a guy that can come in and make shots and spread out the defense for you. When he makes shots, guys run out on him and he knows to dish it to other teammates and get them scores. He's going to be a big part of the team."
Williamson played 11 minutes in the first half and had his only errors on defense, when he was beaten on back-cuts on back-to-back possessions late in the first half.
"Seemingly so did everyone else," said Huggins, who thought he played Williamson too much in the first half and who saw his players let opponents cut behind them and toward the basket throughout the game.
Jones had 25 points and 15 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season. Bryant was 4-for-12 from the floor on the way to 15 points. Deniz Kilcli had his 10th straight game in double figures with 12 points, but he was just 5-for-11. He shot 50 percent or better in the previous six games
The only other player who had more than one basket was Williamson, who didn't play in the second half until 1:35 remained.
"I'm fine with it," Williamson said. "We made a great run and we got the lead and we won the game."
WVU shot 50 percent in the second half and 45.5 percent for the game with 5-for-16 shooting from 3-point range. The Mountaineers were outrebounded in the first half, outscored in the paint and on second-chance points and missed 16 of 27 shots, which forced Huggins to move around his lineup and give players like Williamson an early look.
Williamson usually plays late when the outcome is no longer in question and the fans are chanting his name.
"It's really not different in my mind," he said. "Whenever Coach Huggins puts you in, you've got to go out there and play hard, you've got to play defense and you've got to get to the ball. Those are the three things you have to do whether you go in at the end of the game or the beginning of the game."
The Mountaineers completed the preliminary games in the Las Vegas Classic after beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 84-64 Saturday. They travel Wednesday to Las Vegas, where they'll play Missouri State Thursday as Huggins takes his first crack at his 700th career victory and then No. 6 Baylor Friday.
Tennessee Tech (6-5) shot just 33.9 percent (19-for-56) and tried to make only half as many 3s as Williamson. Guard Jud Dillard had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Zach Bailey added 10 points off the bench.
Leading scorer Kevin Murphy had seven points on 2-for-11 shooting. He was averaging 21 points per game, but had a hard time against Bryant's defense.
"Truck did a terrific job," Huggins said. "I think after three or four possessions, he said, 'I've got him.' I thought Truck could guard him, but he did a great job. He's grown up a lot. Defense to Truck was like a bad word when he got here, but he's progressed so far and he understands we need him to guard."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.