Vensel: Williams a bright spot in tournament

(Associated Press )
March 23, 2010|by Matt Vensel | | b free daily

A stunned Jordan Williams sat on the floor for a few moments after Korie Lucious nailed his buzzer-beating, kidney-punching three-pointer Sunday -- Williams' sizable rear end parked in the paint, like always. As the less-than-impressive Michigan State cheerleading crew stormed the Spokane Arena court and celebrated the Spartans' 85-83 win a few yards away, the future face of Maryland basketball gazed dead ahead.

Only Williams knows what was on his mind. Perhaps the freshman big man was looking back on his first season in College Park. Or maybe he was already thinking about carrying the Terps back to the NCAA tournament -- and even deeper -- next year.

Either way, there was plenty to feel good about there, even after one of the most crushing defeats in program history.

The hyped-up recruit from Torrington, Conn., didn't shatter any backboards in his freshman year, but it was a smash success.

During the regular season, Williams averaged 9.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while establishing himself as the Atlantic Coast Conference's best young big man. Then, under the bright spotlight of March Madness, the 19-year-old center showed he is capable of carrying the Terps next season as they adjust to life without Greivis Vasquez.

Williams was an absolute beast in the 89-77 win over Houston on Friday. In his best collegiate game to date, he scored 21 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, both career highs. You can be sure coaches, players and fans across the country took note.

Sure, Sunday didn't go as well. Williams was overmatched by Michigan State's deep front line and limited by early foul trouble, but still racked up 10 points and 10 rebounds in the heartbreaking loss.

Vasquez, now the former face of the Terps, tried his damnedest to pick up the slack for Williams and his teammates while nearly willing the Terps to an epic comeback. "It's going to take a couple weeks, a couple months -- maybe a year -- to get over this," Vasquez said afterward. He deserved better than leaving us with just this painful memory in his last game for Maryland, but he couldn't get the Terps back to their first Sweet 16 since 2003.

The entertaining, enigmatic Vasquez era now over, this team belongs to Williams (guard Sean Mosley is a co-signer). And as the big man's big game blossoms, he'll get three more cracks -- assuming he doesn't leave College Park early -- to take the Terps further in the tourney than Vasquez could.

This summer, Williams needs to expand his game in the post, become even more of a force on defense and shoot a million or two free throws. But his skill, willpower and potential stood out this weekend.

OK, so maybe Williams didn't think about silver linings from his freshman year as he sat on the court Sunday, but I'm sure he will soon enough. When he does, he will have a few shining moments to remember.

And maybe many more to come.

Matt Vensel is a content creator for b. Follow him on Twitter, @mattvensel.

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