Some people call him ‘Big Dev’. Some people call him ‘Goggles’. Either way, WVU’s Devin Williams isn’t someone you look forward to facing in the NCAA Tournament.
It takes one heck of a player to put up 31 points and pull down 10 rebounds against the top seeded team in the country. Williams did it, and he made it look easy.
Though West Virginia couldn’t hang on to defeat Kansas after holding a halftime lead in the Big 12 Tournament championship game on Saturday, the zealous Williams clinched his 15th double-double of the season, and the 32nd of his WVU career, in one of the most dominant performances witnessed at any of this week’s conference showdowns.
“To actually go down there and play (like that) against some of their bigs, it was a very special moment,” Williams said. “I think it opens a lot of people’s eyes. It gives me the confidence to wanna get in the gym and continue working on my craft and to just continue to get better.”
Williams was 9-12 from the field and 13-15 from the free throw line. Working through some questionable calls and an aggressive Jayhawks defense, the All-Big 12 Second Teamer continued to prevail. It seemed as though the 6-foot-9 junior played even better when things weren’t going in WVU’s favor.
Example: This furious, authoritative dunk Williams threw down in the first half of the matchup.
Head coach Bob Huggins wasn’t surprised that Williams came alive in the Mountaineers’ time of need.
“That’s the best he’s finished all year,” Huggins said. “Devin’s a good player. He works extremely hard, he puts in extra time and he’s the guy we go to when things aren’t going the way we’d like for them to go.”
There’s no denying that Williams has his ups and downs just like every other player. There’s been times this season when WVU’s trusty big man has struggled to find a groove, but there’s also been times when he’s completely taken over games. Judging by his performance on Saturday (which earned him All-Tournament Team honors), Williams is hungrier than ever before.
On Selection Sunday, West Virginia landed a 3-seed in the East region. Lots of fans expected WVU to earn a 2-seed (especially after eliminating Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners from the Big 12 Tournament), but Williams hinted that his team thrives off being underestimated.
“We’re always given the short stick. It’s captain obvious how we’re treated,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s better than last year. It’s a step forward… That’s the most important part, just going in with the right mind state and doing what we have to do. I just want to be mentally prepared and ready to lead my team to a victory.”
The Mountaineers are set to face Stephen F. Austin on Friday, March 18 in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center with tipoff set for 7 p.m. on CBS. If the NCAA Tournament goes anything like Saturday for Devin Williams, WVU’s opponents are in for a wild ride.