Nick of Time

Nick Williams battled nerves early against Auburn. One of his first shot attempts, a 3, failed to hit the rim.

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Then he settled down.

Williams poured in a career-high 22 points and added five rebounds in a 68-54 Ole Miss win over Auburn in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament here in New Orleans Thursday night.

"He had a helluva game for us. He carried us," senior forward Terrance Henry, who had a rather pedestrian six points and four rebounds in the win, said. "He got hot in the second half, and we just kept calling his number. He kept producing."

Williams was 9 of 14 from the floor and 4 of 7 from 3. He hit three 3s in the second half, including a critical make with his team up by only four with 8:33 to play. Auburn got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

"I like the game plan when he scores 22," Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said. "I'd like to replicate that tomorrow night. If Nick is willing, I'm certainly willing."

Ole Miss, the No. 7 seed in the tournament, advances to meet No. 2 seed Tennessee tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.

Nick Williams

"Coach was in my ear screaming at me saying, ‘Go up and get the ball' or whatever," Williams said. "Make a play. So I just did what I had to do. Lucky some shots fell for me and I got on a roll. We just got to carry this momentum into tomorrow."

Williams entered the game third on the team in scoring with 10.2 points per game. The most points he'd scored this season was 19 at Alabama in February. He combined to score just 18 points in Ole Miss' previous two games.

Thursday, though, he came up big. The next-closest scorer was junior forward Murphy Holloway with 13 points, but only three of those points came in the second half. Williams was a one-man show.

"He's certainly evolved. Reality is, (his) role has changed," Kennedy said. "We have to have someone step up in those moments and take that big shot. He did a great job of putting himself in position to knock down shots. He got on a little bit of a roll, and we tried to milk that as long as we could."

Holloway hits the boards … again:

Holloway posted yet another double-double Thursday, his 24th of the season. Holloway finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. In turn, Ole Miss dominated the glass, with a 45-31 advantage.

"I think he does have a nose for the ball," Kennedy said of Holloway. "Certain guys seem to be around the ball. He's got very fast hands. He's got good length. What I think separates him is the fact that his second and third bounce is typically as high as his first. He hasn't been back to the bouncing Murph until here. He's a tough kid, pursues the ball and he does have a knack for finding it."

Holloway, who ranks third in the SEC in rebounding, had six offensive rebounds against Auburn. He sparked Ole Miss in the first half, reaching double-digits in scoring and rebounding by halftime.

"I think it's just God-given," Holloway said of his ability to rebound. "Just knowing where the ball is going to. Just have a knack for the ball, knowing where it's going to come off (the rim) at. And that's about it. There ain't no formula to it."

Reggie Buckner and Murphy Holloway
Associated Press

Allegations had no bearing on game, according to Kennedy:

As reported by Charles Robinson of today, the FBI is investigating suspended Auburn point guard Varez Ward for his alleged role in a point-shaving scandal.

Auburn released a statement in regards to the allegations, all but saying it had no comment. Auburn head coach Tony Barbee said he fully stood behind the statement but wouldn't elaborate or answer any questions.

Kennedy was also asked of the allegations and whether he thought they had any effect on Auburn Thursday.

"I didn't think it had any bearing whatsoever on this game," Kennedy said. "For us, it was just about us coming out and taking a do-or-die attitude. And I thought for the most part, we did that in the second half, and once we settled in and got into a little bit of a rhythm, we were able to get the needed separation.

"I don't really have any thoughts on that. I heard a snippet of the allegations. I don't know where any of the information is coming from, and obviously it's something serious. When you throw that out there, that's not something you hear about every day."

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