Williams Solid In First Game Off Bench (Men’s Basketball)

Andrew Simon

By Andrew SimonThe Daily Northwestern

Coming off the bench in Northwestern’s loss to No. 5 Ohio State on Wednesday, Sterling Williams finally played like a starter.

The redshirt sophomore forward didn’t appear in the starting lineup for the first time this season, but that didn’t stop him from matching his season high of 11 points. He last scored that many in NU’s season-opener against Cornell.

“Sterling made a few shots, but he also got some offensive rebounds, and he seemed pretty active in there,” coach Bill Carmody said. “Maybe (not starting) shook him up a little bit.”

It’s been a bumpy campaign for Williams, who showed flashes of potential last season, while starting 13 times in 29 games and averaging 3.2 points per contest. This season his athleticism and shooting ability were supposed to propel him into a key role in the offense.

But for the most part, this hasn’t materialized. Entering the Ohio State game, Williams was averaging just 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He had the same number of scoreless games as games with double digit points (two) and was averaging fewer than four points per game in his last nine contests.

With Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan playing well, Carmody decided to start both freshmen and bring Williams off the bench.

“(Williams) wants to start, but I just felt this was the right thing to do, to change things up a little bit,” Carmody said.

Despite beginning the game on the sideline, Williams still played 24 minutes and made the most of them. He made four of his seven shot attempts, including three of four 3-pointers, and grabbed four rebounds.

In the first half, Williams hit two 3’s in the span of slightly more than a minute, helping the Wildcats establish their largest lead of the game at 20-11.

With NU struggling early in the second half, Williams kept them in the game with a layup and another trey that pulled the Cats within five with a little more than 15 minutes remaining.

“Today if I had a shot, I was looking to take it, more so than in other games,” said Williams, who spent a lot of time in the last few days working on his shot.

Williams likely will be a reserve for at least one more game, but the demotion isn’t likely to discourage him.

“Sterling is very mature, and he understood what his role was going to be coming off the bench,” senior Tim Doyle said. “As the season goes on, there are a lot of peaks and valleys. You just can’t get too high with the highs and too low with the lows … You just have to stay at an even keel throughout the season, which Sterling does.”

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