The Jacksonville State senior guard played 18 minutes on a sore right ankle in the Gamecocks’ 86-65 loss to Eastern Kentucky.
It was an injury that kept him out of Thursday night’s heartbreaking loss to Morehead State, but he was determined that as long as the Gamecocks carried a glimmer of hope making the Ohio Valley Conference tournament nothing was going to keep him out of the game.
“It was something I wanted to play through because it was painful for me to watch my team last game,” Williams said. “I wanted to at least give an effort. I was just trying to give it my all because we still can make the tournament. Especially with this being my senior year, I want to go all out for my team because we know we can make it and we’re still working toward that.”
It’ll be a race to the finish. The Gamecocks (10-18, 4-9 OVC) are locked in a battle for the final spots in the eight-team field with Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri. They already beat Austin Peay this year and face SEMO on Thursday where Williams said he hopes to be 80 to 90 percent.
“Me being there for my team, that’s all I care about,” he said.
Williams, the Gamecocks’ Division I leader in games played and starts and No. 2 scorer, was held scoreless for the second time this season. He entered the game with 11:13 left in the first half and took only one shot in the game — a short jumper with less than three minutes to play.
Still, he was determined to be a factor, trying to run the offense and find the open man. He had two assists and no turnovers.
“He wants to play at the tournament,” JSU coach James Green said. “He truly wants to be a part of it.
“I’ve been on him for over a month now if you really want to play in that tournament you’d better do something about your play and get with those other guys and make them understand you can’t wait to down the stretch to do those things. What he showed us (Saturday) is maybe in these last three games we can count on him a little bit more.”
The Gamecocks needed a whole lot more against EKU, Green’s preseason pick to win the league.
The Colonels (18-9, 8-5) came into JSU’s gym and hardly missed from anywhere. They shot 65 percent from the floor and were 11 of 21 from 3-point range with leading scorer Tarius Johnson (19 points) and Orlando Williams each hitting three. They also were 13 of 14 from the line.
The Gamecocks led in the game only once — 2-0. It was their fifth straight loss, matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Darion Rackley was JSU’s only scorer in double figures, going for 19 points. D.J. Felder, whose dunk gave the Gamecocks their only lead, had nine points and seven rebounds.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.