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Freshman forward Jaylin Williams sparked a 17-2 run early in the second half of the game to lead No. 20 Arkansas to an 81-66 victory over No. 6 Alabama Wednesday night.
Head coach Eric Musselman stepped away from the virtual post-game press conference and relayed one final message to Williams, who was next in line to speak to media.
“You did a great job,” Musselman said. “Great job.”
Williams finished with a career-high 13 points and eight rebounds in what could be the most important game of his collegiate career so far.
The freshman forward was an impressive +30 in his 22 minutes played, scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, and accounted for eight rebounds in the period.
“It probably is unheard of in 22 minutes,” Musselman said of Williams’ plus-minus figure. “He’s a great player. He’s not a good player. He keeps getting better.”
Musselman said Williams was patient early when he wasn’t seeing much court time. He just stayed focused and kept working on his game.
Alabama scored the first seven points of the second half to lead 45-39 and forced an Arkansas timeout, but Williams responded to the drought with three straight baskets to put the team up 46-45.
“It’s a great feeling,”Williams said. “I want to be a guy that comes in and can change the game if we need it. That’s a great feeling.”
“I’m happy — happy that we won,” he said.
Arkansas outscored Alabama by 30 points, including by 21 in the second half.
Freshman guard Moses Moody finished with a game-high 24 points, making 16-of-19 at the free throw line, with a career-high four assists and a career-high three blocked shots.
The 16 makes at the free throw line ties Tommy Boyer for sixth-most made by a Razorback in a game – and is third-most by a Hog in an SEC game, per Razorback Communications.
The 19 attempts tie for seventh-most by a Razorback in a game and third most by a Hog in an SEC game, the team said.
Moody said after the team’s win that Williams’ impact on the game is significant, even if the stats sheet reflects it in a nontraditional way.
“[Williams] does all the dirty work, all the little things and that show with plus-minus ratios and things like that,” Moody said. “That starts to show how he impacts the game even if it’s not always points or assists or rebounds or all that. He’s going to do all that, too. He’s a big difference-maker.”
Alabama could have clinched the SEC regular-season title Wednesday with a win over Arkansas, but Williams said his team had a plan to win going into the game.
“We knew what we had to do,” he said. “We knew we had to come in here with some energy, couldn’t get down early because they’re such a streaky team. They can get hot and make a run, and we just didn’t want to give them that.
“We had to show them we’re a different ball team than we were in the [last game],” he said.
The Razorbacks have won eight straight SEC games and improve to 18-5 overall and 10-4 in the SEC to take sole possession of the No. 2 spot in the league.
It is the best conference win streak by the Hogs since winning 11 straight to close the 1993-94 season. With the loss, the Crimson Tide fall to 18-6 overall 13-2 in conference play.
Arkansas stays at home to host LSU on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CT.