FAYETTEVILLE – Subtly impacting like a volcano seems an oxymoron moronically fashioned.
But how else could you describe Arkansas leading nationally No. 6 Alabama by 30 for Jaylin Williams’ 22 minutes including leading by 21 for his 17:39 second half minutes Wednesday night at Walton Arena?
The Razorbacks won, 81-66 but only led 39-38 the first half.
Arkansas did outscore Alabama by nine during those 4:21 first-half minutes that the 6-10 freshman backup center/power forward from Fort Smith Northside played off the bench.
When Williams replaced starting center Connor Vanover at 18:07 of the second half, the Hogs trailed, 45-39.
While fellow freshman star guard Moses Moody added to his game-leading 24 points, during the second half Williams, tallying Razorbacks career high 13 points for the game, scored 12 points with eight rebounds. Subtly he took more charges than a Delco battery, set picks that kept the Hogs rolling over the Tide and defensively clogged the lane like hair clogs drains.
For Arkansas to lead by 30 for his 22 minutes in a game won by 15?
“It probably is unheard of in 22 minutes,” Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “He’s not a good player. He’s a great player. He keeps getting better.”
No player appreciated Williams more than Moody appreciated the 245-pound freshman’s subtle contributions to Moody’s 24 points.
“”If you look at the stat sheet, you’re not going to see everything that J-Will brings to the team,” Moody said. “He does all the dirty work, all the little things and that show with plus-minus ratios and things like that. That starts to show how he impacts the game even if it’s not always points or assists or rebound or all that. He’s going to do all that, too. He’s a big difference-maker.”
Moody got specific. Williams all but personally fouled out Herbert Jones setting up for charges into which Alabama’s star forward plowed.
It not only put the ball back in Moody’s hands but rewarded Moody for all those practices that he had been charged for charging into Williams.
“In the summertime, we played against each other a lot,” Moody said, “So, that was me on the other end of all those charges. I hated that dude right then, but now I love him and glad he’s on my team. And y’all might not realize, but when J-Will sets the screen, the guy he’s setting it for is going to be open. Small stuff like that shows all he does for the team that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Musselman said defensively Williams “clogged the lane up on dribble drives” among his myriad of subtleties and offensively that he “is a willing passer.”
Wednesday he was unsubtle about flat out scoring.
“I would say we ran more plays tonight for Moses and J-Will than we did anybody else,” Musselman said. “I mean, if there was two guys that got the most play calls, it was those two guys. We’re not relying on them juste to play. We’re relying on them to score baskets.”
Musselman said Williams even scored with defense in mind. Williams’ post-ups not only netted him seven free throw attempts but subtracted the long rebounds, Musselman said, that Alabama uses to launch its 3-point shooting game.
Alabama’s 15 treys helped devastate Arkansas, 90-59 on Jan. 16 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
For his part Williams was just happy to oblige.
“I’ve been saying this from the beginning: ‘I just want to do whatever the team needs,” Williams said of scoring a 6-point spree after Alabama’s 7-0 run starting the second half. “At the moment we were we were kind of struggling on the offensive, and Coach Muss believed in me and put the ball in my hands to make the right choice. I want to be a guy that comes in and can change the game if we need it. That’s a great feeling.”
A really great feeling for him to know the 20th-ranked Hogs, 18-5 overall/ 10-4 second in the SEC, close in on a highly seeded NCAA Tournament berth as Saturday’s game with LSU approaches at Walton.
“I mean, of course it’s in all of our heads,” Williams said of the NCAA Tourney Big Dance. “But we’re ready for the next game. We’re thinking about LSU, we’re ready to play them and ready to see what happens next.”