As Herd moves the ball around, Williams is always prepared to shoot
HUNTINGTON - Whether it’s 20 minutes or 20 seconds remaining on the game clock, Marshall University’s Jannson Williams will shoot if he’s open. Williams sank the winning 3-point basket last weekend with 20 seconds to go when Marshall edged Western Kentucky 70-69 in Cam Henderson Center.
Williams made the winner on a near-perfect play. Point guard Jon Elmore passed the basketball to guard Rondale Watson, who made a move that drew the defense before feeding Williams at the top of the 3-point circle. Watson’s move lured 6-foot-11 Charles Bassey of the Hilltoppers away from the 6-9 Williams.
“We’re passing the ball a lot more than we have been, and that’s the goal,” Williams said “The more passes the more the defense has to shift and move. They defended it the only way they could. Their shot blocker was at the top of the key and him (Watson) attacking the lane made him drop down.
“With him (Bassey) being bigger than me he has an advantage on me down low, but he had to come out and guard me as well.”
Marshall (10-6) is 3-0 in Conference USA behind only UTSA (10-7, 4-0) in the standings entering a 7 p.m. Thursday home game against Florida Atlantic University (11-6), which is 2-2 in the conference.
Williams, a sophomore, leads Marshall with 4.8 rebounds per game and in blocked shots with 30. He’s a 38.2 percent shooter (26 of 68) behind the 3-point line.
The decisive 3-pointer was the first winning shot of his life.
“No matter what the time says, if I feel like I’m open I’m going to shoot that,” he said. “I’ve had a couple games were I was 1 for 6, but if I’m open, if it doesn’t fall it doesn’t fall, and I’ll go back on defense and get the ball back.
“If it comes down to 20 minutes or 20 seconds on the clock, if I’m open I’m going to try to shoot it and knock it down for the team.”
Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni said when the basketball keeps moving, the defense is going to make a mistake. Marshall isn’t looking for any particular thing; it’s looking for anything the defense gives it, he said.
Elmore, a 6-3 senior, is third in Marshall and C-USA history with 2,194 career points. The point guard from Charleston has the Herd’s top scoring average at 19.1 followed by 6-4 senior guard C.J. Burks at 16.4, Williams with 9.7 and 6-5 freshman forward Taevion Kinsey with 8.3. Kinsey and Elmore topped the scoring against WKU with 23 and 21 respectively while Williams added 12 points and pulled down six rebounds.
Burks was limited to a season-low four points in 22 minutes of action and played for only four minutes of the second half. Burks needed one 3-point attempt for 500 in his career, but didn’t take a 3 for the first time in his 109 games with the Herd.
D’Antoni said Burks, who has 1,500 career points, needs to play better or he’ll have to go more with Watson, a 6-4 senior scoring 6.6 a game.
The Herd also wants to get forward Darius George untracked. The 6-7 sophomore didn’t get into the WKU game. He scored only nine total points in his last three appearances and averages 6.2.
FAU plays for a first-season head coach, Dusty May, who was on Mike White’s staff for the last seven seasons at the University of Florida and Louisiana Tech University. The Owls brought in 11 new players this season including 6-7 graduate transfer forward Xavian Stapleton from Mississippi State, who also played for Louisiana Tech when May was with the Bulldogs.
The Owls’ non-conference games included wins at UCF and Illinois. They split their first four C-USA contests with wins against Middle Tennessee and at Old Dominion while losing at UAB and to Charlotte. Their last game at home with Charlotte was a 65-60 defeat when the Owls shot only 33.3 percent from the floor.
“They’ve got guards that are quick, and they run our offense,” D’Antoni said. “They’ve got two big kids they can play.”
Anthony Adger is a 6-1 senior guard leading the Owls in scoring (15.9) and Stapleton adds 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Michael Forrest (6-foot freshman guard) scores 7.4 on average and dishes 3.1 assists. Simeon Lepichev, a 6-9 senior, is the top rebounder with 5.7 a game and tosses in 5.2 points. Six-foot-11 redshirt freshman Karlis Silins scores 5.1 per game.
Florida Atlantic (11-6, 2-2) at Marshall (10-6, 3-0)
7 p.m. Thursday, Cam Henderson Center, Huntington
Radio: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM