JaCorey Williams made sure his return to his hometown was a memorable one. Middle Tennessee's senior forward hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds of Sunday's 66-64 win over UAB, giving the Blue Raiders their first outright Conference USA championship.
Middle trailed 64-61 after Denzel Watts hit a three with just under 3:00 to go, but Reggie Upshaw answered with a three of his own to tie the game, capping his team-best 19 point day.
Then with just 10 seconds to go, Middle put the ball in the hands of Tyrik Dixon. The freshman point guard was able to penetrate, draw two defenders and then kick it to a wide open Williams for wide open jumper from just beyond the foul line.
UAB had one final shot for the win, but Dirk Williams' three-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer.
For Williams, it was the perfect cap to what has been a season of personal redemption. Williams was dismissed from the University of Arkansas basketball program in August of 2015 after multiple rules violations, including the use of counterfeit money. But he was given a second chance by Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis, and he has made the most of it.
Williams leads the Blue Raiders in scoring at 17.5 points per game and rebounding (7.6) while shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor. And on the biggest possession of the season, there's no one Middle would've rather gotten the ball to.
Williams made it count, sinking the game-winner in front of family and friends to cap a 15-point day and lift his team to the conference title.
Now both Williams and the Blue Raiders will turn their attention towards another trip to Birmingham and the conference tournament in a couple weeks. Sunday's win means they will be the no. 1 seed and, at 25-4 overall, will be the overwhelming favorites to cut down the nets and return to the NCAA Tournament.
But as we saw as the clock ticked down Sunday, the pressure is just fine with Williams. He's enjoying every moment of his second chance.