Walk-On Gives WVU a Spark

MORGANTOWN – The six points walk-on Paul Williamson contributed in West Virginia’s 72-53 victory against Tennessee Tech on Monday night at the WVU Coliseum might not turn a lot of heads on their surface.

But he helped the Mountaineers change the game.

“I don’t really know if the spark was me or not,” Williamson said. “It was definitely a team thing.”

Williamson, a state native from Logan High School and that school’s all-time leading scorer, entered with 11:06 left in the first half and a sluggish WVU team leading 12-10. Exactly 1 minute later, it was 18-10 as he buried a pair of 3-pointers.

Suddenly, a player who had attempted all of 11 career shots was the focal point of a defense that wasn’t about to be burned a third time.

The Golden Eagle zone was suddenly smothering the now 70-percent career 3-point shooter (7 of 10) and it was opening things up underneath for Kevin Jones in a big way. Three times during the game’s next 10 minutes, Williamson assisted on passes to Jones. He was smothered with defenders who’d left Jones, flipped it to the big man, and the rest was fundamental. Williamson never did attempt another shot.

“(Jones) was wide open,” Williamson said. “After I hit those two shots, they were just saying, ‘shooter, shooter, know where he is.’ “

Jones wound up with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

“He’s a guy that can come in and make shots and spread out the defense for you,” Jones said of Williamson. “When he’s making shots, guys are running out to him he can dish off to other teammates like he showed (Monday night).”

There aren’t a lot of walk-ons in the college game who make a difference, though WVU coach Bob Huggins listed several he’s had through the years. It’s a luxury, the coach said.

“Paul’s our best shooter,” said Huggins, who earned his 699th career coaching victory. “They were playing zone. A couple of the guys I didn’t think were taking the game seriously enough. I knew Paul would take the game serious. I thought he played really well. He made shots, passed the ball, made a hustle play. He got beat a couple of times back door, but seemingly so did everybody else on our team.”

Williamson’s six points were the fourth-highest on the team as Jones, Deniz Kilicli (12 points) and Truck Bryant (15) combined for 52 of the team’s 72. No one else even made as many as two field goals.

There will be nights like that, Jones said.

“Of course we need contributions from other people and it doesn’t necessarily have to be just scoring,” Jones said. “It could be rebounding, defense, assists, whatever anybody can help. We have to carry the scoring load for the most part but to have other people taking that responsibility off you is kinda nice sometimes. We need more of that.”

Gary Browne added five points – all on free throws – and Keaton Miles also added five, including three free throws.

West Virginia (7-2) led 33-26 at halftime, where it never did push a lead above 10 and was outrebounded, 19-18, by the Golden Eagle (6-5).

Clearly, that was a cause for concern for Huggins, who watched as Jones collected eight of those.

“Coach spoke his mind about what he thought about that,” Jones said.

For Tennessee Tech, Kevin Murphy, who came in averaging 21 points a game, was held to seven on 2 of 11 shooting.

That was part of a defensive effort by the Mountaineers, who limited Tech to 33 percent shooting (19 of 56) and harassed it into 15 turnovers and 23 personal fouls.