Devin Williams Finds Rhythm in Kansas Win - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Devin Williams Finds Rhythm in Kansas Win

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MORGANTOWN -

Don't let the fans storming the court and taking selfies as they celebrated with the Mountaineers players on Saturday fool you. That win over No. 8 Kansas was just another victory over just another Big 12 team that is really no different than West Virginia.

That's what Devin Williams is saying, at least.

The freshman forward played what could easily be called the best and most effective game of his career in taking down the Jayhawks, but when the game ended, he was sure to note that ultimately it was a regular season win and nothing more.

"This is a great win, but this wasn't our championship game," said Williams. "It was a great win for the fans to keep hope and faith, but this wasn't our championship game. This was just a regular game at the highest level. We just need to stay level and grounded and get back in there on Monday and get back to work."

Williams certainly played as though something more than just another conference victory was on the line Saturday. With a career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds, the Cincinnati native put the Mountaineers on his back and was the catalyst to what ballooned to a 25-point lead.

He shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the first half and those weren't numbers that came as the result of a bunch of dunks and open layups.

You see, Williams isn't your typical big man. Even when he has a look at a slam dunk, he tends to lean toward a layup attempt instead. He feels more comfortable shooting away from the basket because that is what he did in high school.

When he is cold with his shooting touch, Williams can become ineffective because to this point in his career he has been largely uncomfortable down low. He has trouble finishing close to the rim and he has trouble holding onto a rebound.

Still, he possesses the most potential of the big men on the roster. Against Kansas, with Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Joel Embiid out with an injury, Williams found his touch inside.

"We've been waiting for him to playing like that the whole season. I told Devin if he plays like that, nobody can beat us," said sophomore guard Eron Harris, who led the team with 28 points. "It's a mismatch. He's shooting outside shots and he's driving to the basket. If he plays like that, nobody can beat us."

Williams says a conversation with his mother helped spark his turnaround on the court. She told him that if he didn't get in the gym more than he had been, he would not see the results when he got in the game.

Mother knows best.

"That's what I did. I just got in there and did what I do and I think I'm finding myself," said Williams. "I'm going to try to really stay humble about it and continue to work."

More than the work in the gym, Williams is putting an increased focus on his film study. Head coach Bob Huggins will thank him for that. He said the past few games, he has entered the lineup with a better understanding of what to expect as far as the other team's tendencies are concerned and it has paid off.

"I'm trying to get my mental right and watching film and really trying to soak everything up and preparing and trying to work hard," he said.

His teammates, and anyone watching that Kansas game, are noticing the progression from where Williams was at the start of the season to where he is now. The key will be whether or not he can keep it up heading into postseason play as WVU fights for an outside chance at making the NCAA Tournament.

"We've been on him a lot this year, just about picking up his intensity level, matching the other team's intensity, letting him know that he's not a freshman anymore, he has to step up and give us more and it seemed like he must have just figured it out [Saturday]," said Juwan Staten.

His presence offensively as someone who can score on the inside or on the outside is something the Mountaineers believe can really work to their advantage. If both are working on the same night, it could be downright scary.

"When he really learns how to use that, he's going to be very hard to guard," said Staten. "He has probably the best footwork that I've seen in awhile from a big man. He can put the ball on the floor, it's just about picking his spots. When he's got it all going, he's definitely hard to guard."

Williams showed what he's been working on against the Jayhawks, but now he is faced with a challenge that has been too difficult to overcome twice this season: The Texas Longhorns.

In two regular season meetings between the schools, Williams tallied just four points and three rebounds total. Texas center Cameron Ridley put up 29 points and 18 rebounds. A tough test awaits on Thursday night in the Big 12 Tournament, but Williams believes his team needs to enter the matchup with the confidence that they took into the regular season finale.

"I felt like it's something we can do. Kansas is a great team, but they're not unbeatable," said Williams. "They put their pants on the same way we do. We just came out and competed, that's all it was. We're just going to move on and try to continue to grow." 

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