The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 20, 2011

Providing a spark

Williamson gives WVU lift in win over Tenn. Tech

MORGANTOWN — It was a well-worn plot, one lifted directly from the Broadway stage and put on display in the Coliseum on Monday night.

It was the classic musical “42nd Street” with costumes designed by Nike, a two-act play in which the understudy becomes the star.

The understudy in this case was West Virginia walk-on Paul Williamson, who rescued the once-again listless Mountaineers with an inspired performance off the bench when they were being challenged by underdog Tennessee Tech, carrying them to a 72-53 victory.

The Mountaineers ran off their fourth straight victory, leaving them with an 8-2 record to take to Las Vegas with them for the final two games of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic, facing Missouri State on Thursday and No. 6 Baylor on Friday.

Coach Bob Huggins’ team had gotten off to another slow start in quest of his 699th career victory.

“We had a couple of guys who I didn’t think were ready to play, so I didn’t play them,” he said. “They weren’t paying attention to the game so I took them out. That’s not going to do it.

“I keep trying to explain to all those guys that you have a responsibility to your teammates. You have a responsibility to the people in the stands. You have responsibility to this university and this state to try. You may screw things up, but try. When they don’t do that, they are not going to play.”

The one thing Williamson will do is try ... and shoot the lights out.

“He’s our best shooter,” Huggins said.

Think about that for a minute, all the money, all the time and effort that is put into recruiting, and here’s a kid from down the road in Logan, a Greyhound bus ride away who comes in and is a better shot than any of the hot-shot blue-bloods he recruited.

How can that be, you ask?

Williamson will tell you how he came to shoot like that, an unorthodox, two-handed jump shot from outside the 3-point line.

“My dad, he taught me how to shoot,” he said.

Remember, this is in a day and age where anyone who ever scored in double figures in an NCAA game has a shooting camp. “He played and when I was about 4 or 5, he’d take me to the gym and work on my mechanics.”

Basketball, Williamson noted, was his first love, maybe his only love, and he not only wanted to play it on the collegiate level, but in his home state at his state university.

“He had opportunities to go other places,” Huggins said.

Williamson really only wanted to know one thing, though, the same thing most kids who have to walk on want to know.

“They always ask, ‘Am I going to have a chance?’” Huggins said.

He can always tell them they will, for he isn’t one to have deadwood just sitting around. At Akron he had a walk-on who won a starting job, along with three football players in Huggins’ first year as coach. And at Cincinnati he would use the players he thought could help him best, one of his walk-ons leading the Metro Conference in 3-point shooting.

So here you had Huggins storming on the sidelines, raging at some of his players who weren’t putting out, one of them, Dominique Rutledge proving in 6 seconds on the court that he wasn’t prepared for this game.

That got him yanked like a bad tooth.

Williamson, on the other hand, proved to be a toothache to Tennessee Tech.

“I’m comfortable with my role,” he said. “I know what I can do and what I can’t do. I’m not the most athletic guy. I’m not going by someone.”

Put him in against a zone, as Huggins did with West Virginia leading only 12-10 in the first half, and he can make a difference.

He came off the bench and before he had worked up a sweat he had hit two consecutive 3s, widening the lead to 18-10, and while he would not score again he would also contribute three assists and a hustle play.

That he sat during the second half right until the end hardly mattered, for by then Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and Truck Bryant had matters in control, Jones finishing with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, Kilicli scoring 12 and Bryant 15.

With that, they all acknowledged what Williamson meant, not only to this game but to future games.

“We’re going to need Paul,” Jones admitted. “He’s a guy who can come in and make shots and when he comes in he can also pass off the ball. We’ll see some zones in the Big East with Syracuse and Louisville.”

“I’m telling you, he came in again and made some really important shots,” Kilicli said. “We were really struggling and he came in and it was whoop, whoop, two baskets.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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