On the heels of a 10-0 Michigan run, Rutgers needed an answer.
With less than four minutes to go, the Wolverines seized control of the momentum when they pushed their newly regained lead to six points.
Then Mike Williams — all 6-foot-2 of him — delivered.
Among the taller big men that surrounded him in the low post, the sophomore guard ripped down an offensive rebound and banked a put-back shot with the foul for the three-point play.
“I tried to box them out, and I knew the ball was going to come off a certain way — it was going to fall right in my lap, which it did,” Williams said. “It just came down to, I got to make the layup to cut the lead down to three, to a one-possession game. When I heard the RAC erupt, it was a great feeling. I was pumped up.”
When Michigan coach John Beilein reflected on the pivotal Wolverines’ run, Williams was the culprit for why the momentum got derailed.
“I think if (Mike) Williams doesn't get those six (offensive) rebounds, it’s not close at that time,” Beilein said. “It is so odd to have a two-guard go crash. We are not using to boxing out (that position) and you can’t flip that switch like that. He did a great job.”
While the Scarlet Knights (13-16, 2-14) were unable to close out Michigan (18-10, 8-7) down the stretch of a 68-64 home loss, Williams willed Rutgers with grit and grind. On top of the eight rebounds Williams pulled down, he poured in 14 points on a 5-for-10 mark from the field and was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
“I have to admit it — Mike is probably the hardest working played I had never played with,” Johnson said. “I never met somebody under 6-(foot)-5 that’s going to get you six, seven, eight rebounds every night. With him, he’s not really the tallest — he doesn’t have a 50-inch vertical.
“But he’s just got a lot of heart and will, and he’s going to get the rebound, one way or another. Whether it’s out-muscling you or if it’s just being physical and getting to body somebody, he’s going to get the rebound. … It’s definitely good to play with him because you know he’s going to bring it every night. He’s going to give it all he’s got every night, and that’s something you’ve got to love as a player playing alongside of.”
When injuries to Rutgers’ big men last year decimated the rotation under former coach Eddie Jordan, Williams was forced to play the four at times.
With prior experience plus the coaching from Pikiell, Williams said he flies into the paint and aggressively attacks rebounds.
“It has always been there since high school, but I haven’t really showed it because of last year, we did have when I was a four man sometimes, (Jordan) would make us a run back,” Williams said. “Coach Pikiell wants us to crash the boards, so I’m able to show that aspect of my game.”