With two home wins against strong opponents Kentucky and Kansas State, Tennessee men’s basketball had a successful week. It was a pair of big wins for a team that has hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Both wins came thanks to incredible team efforts, but one player was absolutely vital to the Vols’ success this week: Grant Williams.
The 6-foot-5-inch forward from Charlotte, North Carolina, had a pair of fantastic performances that added to a successful freshman season. Williams averaged 15 points, six rebounds and four assists this week.
Senior guard Robert Hubbs III was the team’s leading scorer against Kentucky with 25 points, but Williams poured in 13 of his own and filled the stat sheet with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocks. While Hubbs carried the scoring load, Williams was effective on both ends of the floor and did everything he could to help the Vols pull off the big upset.
Although Williams was key to Tennessee’s upset on Tuesday, he cemented himself as Tennessee’s most valuable player for the week during Saturday’s game against Kansas State. The Wildcats double-teamed Hubbs every time he got the ball, but the Vols didn’t work to get him open and in a good position to score. Instead, Williams took over, leading the team with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The freshman forward opened the second half by scoring the Vols’ first eight points, helping Tennessee set the tone and hold on to its first-half lead to push the Vols to the SEC’s first win during the SEC-Big 12 challenge. Williams added six rebounds and a pair of assists to his 17-point performance.
Williams was also on the court for the majority of both games, including a team-high 34 minutes against Kansas State. His minutes on the floor showed an impressive amount of conditioning as well as the ability to avoid foul trouble.
While Hubbs stole the show on Monday with a great performance against Kentucky, and Lew Evans got plenty of love from the crowd on Saturday, there wasn’t a player on the roster that was more consistent or important this week to the team’s success than Grant Williams. If he continues his level of play, Rick Barnes and company will continue to be a very competitive team, both this season and beyond.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Hayley Pennesi, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics