Williams ready to help Murray State deliver in March again

Mar 16, 2022, 2:16 PM | Updated: Mar 17, 2022, 2:21 am
FILE - Murray State forward K.J. Williams (0) plays against Tennessee State during the second half ...

FILE - Murray State forward K.J. Williams (0) plays against Tennessee State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Williams has matured into one of Murray State's star attractions. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)

KJ Williams was playing a supporting role for Murray State a few years ago when Ja Morant posted a triple-double while leading the Racers to an NCAA Tournament victory.

As the Racers return to March Madness this week, Williams has matured into one of the team’s star attractions.

Murray State (30-2) carries a 20-game winning streak into its first-round game against San Francisco (24-9) on Thursday at Indianapolis. The Racers owe much of their success to Williams, the Ohio Valley Conference player of the year.

“With me coming in my freshman year, I think I averaged 7 and 6 (his actual averages were 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game),” Williams said. “I just took that to another level and just got my game better throughout the years. I just wanted to show that I can score at all levels, that I can do what I can do.”

Williams improved his scoring averages to 12.7 points in 2019-20, 15.6 in 2020-21 and 18.2 this season. The 6-foot-10 junior also has produced 8.6 rebounds per game.

Now he gets to make his long-awaited return to the tournament.

As a freshman playing alongside Morant, Williams shot 8 of 10 and scored 16 points as Murray State trounced Marquette 83-64 in a first-round game. Williams was held scoreless in the next round as Murray State lost 90-62 to Florida State.

The Racers are counting on the tournament experience of Williams and Tevin Brown to help guide them this week. Brown scored 19 points in that 2019 victory over Marquette.

“We have two players in KJ Williams and Tevin Brown who’ve won a lot of games, won a lot of championships, won a game in the NCAA Tournament, have performed at a really high level in the NCAA Tournament,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said. “Those two guys scored 35 points in our first-round win back in 2019. I expect them to show great leadership toward our other players who may or may not have played in that tournament.”

Morant, now an All-Star guard with the Memphis Grizzlies, will be keeping tabs on them. Williams said a congratulatory text recently arrived from his former teammate.

“He texts us telling us, ‘Good job, way to get the job done,’ and telling us to look forward to March Madness,” Williams said.

Williams is one of several notable players from one-bid conferences who could make an impact on this NCAA Tournament. Here are six others:

TEDDY ALLEN, NEW MEXICO STATE

First-round game: Thursday vs. UConn in Buffalo, New York.

Allen’s college career has taken him to West Virginia, Wichita State, Western Nebraska Community College and Nebraska. The 6-6 guard finally found a home at New Mexico State, where he was named the Western Athletic Conference player of the year. He averages 19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

E.J. ANOSIKE, CAL STATE FULLERTON

First-round game: Friday vs. Duke at Greenville, South Carolina.

Anosike is making the most of his opportunity at Cal State Fullerton after previously playing at Sacred Heart and Tennessee. The 6-7 senior forward averages 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds to lead the Titans in both categories. He averaged 18 points and 13.7 rebounds in three Big West Tournament games. He’s the younger brother of Nicky Anosike, who played on Tennessee’s 2007 and 2008 women’s basketball national championship teams.

RYAN DAVIS, VERMONT

First-round game: Thursday vs. Arkansas in Buffalo, New York.

Davis is a two-time America East Conference player of the year who is averaging 17.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 senior forward is making 59% of his shots. He scored 20 points as Vermont trounced Maryland-Baltimore County 82-43 in the America East final.

BAYLOR SCHEIERMAN, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

First-round game: Thursday vs. Providence in Buffalo, New York.

Scheierman has helped South Dakota State win 21 straight games, the longest active streak of any Division I team. The 6-6 sophomore is the Summit League player of the year. He leads the Summit League in assists (4.6) and is ranked second in rebounds (7.8) and fifth in scoring (16.2).

MALACHI SMITH, CHATTANOOGA

First-round game: Friday vs. Illinois in Pittsburgh.

Smith is Chattanooga’s first Southern Conference player of the year since 1997, when Johnny Taylor led the Mocs to a Sweet 16 berth. He averages 20.1 points to rank 18th among all Division I players. The Wright State transfer also gets 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. He averaged 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists for Chattanooga last season.

JORDAN WALKER, UAB

First-round game: Friday vs. Houston at Pittsburgh.

Walker, the Conference USA player of the year, leads the league and ranks 14th nationally in scoring (20.2). He ranks third in Conference USA in assists (4.9). He scored 27 points to help UAB beat Louisiana Tech 82-73 in the Conference USA Tournament championship game. The 5-11 junior guard previously played at Seton Hall and Tulane.

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Qatar confirms COVID-19 test requirements for World Cup fans

GENEVA (AP) — Fans going to the World Cup in Qatar must show a negative COVID-19 test when they arrive as part of the host nation’s rules to combat COVID-19, organizers said Thursday. All visitors aged 18 and over must also download a government-run phone application tracking people’s movements and health status, called Ehteraz. “A […]
1 day ago
France's Alexia Chartereau lays up to score goal as China's Huang Sijing, right, attempts to block ...
Associated Press

Canada into women’s World Cup semis for 1st time since 1986

SYDNEY (AP) — No one on Canada’s roster was alive the last time the team won a medal at the women’s World Cup. Now the Canadians are a win away from securing one for the first time since 1986, when they captured the bronze. Kia Nurse scored 17 points to lead a balanced Canada team […]
1 day ago
FILE - Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala handles the ball during the second half of an N...
Associated Press

Warriors-Wizards games in Japan to woo NBA fans, sponsors

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese basketball fans will get to see NBA stars up close when the reigning league-champion Golden State Warriors take on the Washington Wizards in two preseason games. Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry and Japanese-born Rui Hachimura will be the star attractions for each team. And as clearly as the logo of Japanese online […]
1 day ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge celebrates his 61st home run of the season, a two-run shot against th...
Associated Press

Maris Jr: Bonds, McGwire illegitimate, Judge to be HR king

TORONTO (AP) — Roger Maris Jr. considers the home run feats of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to be illegitimate and says Aaron Judge should be recognized as the holder of the big league season standard if the New York Yankees slugger hits No. 62. “He should be revered for being the actual […]
1 day ago
San Diego Padres' Manny Machado, right, jokes with Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux (9)...
Associated Press

Freeman has RBI single in 10th, gives Dodgers 107th win

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Freddie Freeman helped the Atlanta Braves win the World Series last year and on Wednesday night he helped the Los Angeles Dodgers set the franchise season record with their 107th victory. Freeman singled in Mookie Betts with one out in the 10th inning and the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres […]
1 day ago
New York Yankees' Aaron Judge hugs his mother, Patty Judge, after the team's baseball game against ...
Associated Press

Fans miss 61 HR ball, Jays bullpen coach gets it to Judge

TORONTO (AP) — When Aaron Judge’s American League record-tying 61st home run dropped into Toronto’s bullpen, coach Matt Buschmann picked it up. “Bad news is I’m down here in Florida battling a hurricane, but the good news is I can announce my retirement,” tweeted Buschmann’s wife, Sara Walsh, a Fox Sports reporter and former ESPN […]
1 day ago
Williams ready to help Murray State deliver in March again