WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team defeated the Southern Vermont Mountaineers (0-1) this evening in its opening game of the season 81-51. The Ephs (1-0) started out strong on offense and were able to maintain their momentum throughout the second game of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament. Salem State defeated Coast Guard in the opening game of the tournament. Williams and the Vikings will face off tomorrow at 3 PM in the championship while the Mountaineers will take on the Bears in the 1 PM consolation match-up.
The Ephs took the early lead with Nate Robertson and Michael Mayer combining for their first 13 points. Williams pushed its lead to double digits with a pass ahead to Daniel Wohl off of a steal. Goal-tending and a foul were called on the play, and Wohl was able to convert the three-point play to make it 20-9 with 10:41 on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Wohl added another hoop on a similar play. A couple plays later, Mayer scored off of his own rebound to push the Eph lead to 15.
After Ryan Kilcullen converted an and-one opportunity for the first points of his Williams career, Taeshon Johnson had a nice finish to end a three-minute drought for the Mountaineers. Travis Severs added a hoop for the visitors, and Johnson finished a pretty pull-up jumper with a hand in his face to pull within 12 of the Ephs. He stole the ball on the next play, but the Mountaineers were unable to convert on the resulting possession.
The Ephs continued to push the rest of the half, and entered the break with the 40-22 lead. Mayer had 17 points in the opening frame for the Ephs, including a three-pointer and pair of free throws. Johnson led the Mountaineers with 12 points in the first half.
Out of the break, the Ephs continued to push. Taylor Epley was fouled on a nice putback. He was unable to convert the three-point play, but Mayer was able to finish the rebound. Wohl then had a beautiful long ball from the top of the key to push the lead to 53-27.
Tavaris Jenkins looked to get the Mountaineers back in the game in the opening minutes of the half. He had a pretty steal that he took the length of the court for two. He added the Mountaineers' next field goal of the half just over two minutes later with a pretty floater.
The Ephs continued to add to their lead, though, pushing it to as many as 32 before the game was out. The Mountaineers continued to fight, however, but a two-minute span of four consecutive three-pointers from four different players – Jenkins, Tyler Hess, Severs, and Jermaine Campbell – proved too little to late as the Ephs walked off the court with the opening victory.
Mayer led all scorers tonight with 23 points. Johnson and Jenkins each had 13 for the Mountaineers.
Said Coach Mike Maker after the game, " think anytime you have your opening game of the season, you like to start off with a win. I thought we did it in a convincing fashion and did it with everybody contributing. Our focal point tonight was getting the ball into the interior to our big men, especially Michael Mayer. I thought our senior guards played well, on the interior we played well, and we got a nice contribution from Daniel Wohl."
Added Maker about his leading scorer, "I think Michael is clearly one of the best players to play here, especially in the pivot. When you talk about really good centers who played here over the years, you think of Ben Coffin and Troy Whittington, and I think Michael should be in that conversation." He added, "He's very, very talented. He's the hub of our offense. He has an array of moves around the basket; he's got great footwork, a lot of confidence – he made a three tonight; he can make his free throws; he has a high basketball IQ. He's going to be a handful for opponents, and we're going to feature him; there's no doubt about that."
Maker went on to say, "I think we have four proven returning players that have played in big games – our senior co-captain backcourt Klemm and Robertson, Mayer, and Taylor Epley. Those guys have played in big games and had a lot of success. The rest of our roster is very talented, and how they blend with those four will be the key to our success."
Looking ahead, Maker said, "The one area I was disappointed in was our rebounding. In the second half, we made an emphasis on blocking out. If we're going to have success against Salem State tomorrow, we're going to have to control the glass."
See below for details of tonight's opening match-up between Salem State and Coast Guard.
The Salem State Vikings (1-0) defeated the Coast Guard Academy Bears (0-1) tonight 87-60 in the opening game of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament. After taking the lead just over six minutes into the first half, the Viking were able to hold onto it for the rest of the game. The win marked Salem State head coach Chris Harvey's 200th career victory.
While Coast Guard took the early lead, Salem State took the game over with the help of its defense. With just over 13 to play, Hanell Velez stole the ball and took it the length of the court for two. On the ensuing inbound play, he stole the ball again and pulled up with a pretty jumper to give the Vikings their first lead of the game at 12-10. A few plays later, Andrew White stole the play out of a half-court trap and took the ball to the hole for a bucket. The Vikings controlled the rest of the half turning their momentum into a 15-0 run before Greg Marshall finally scored off the backboard for the Bears. Velez led the way for the Vikings in the half with 11 points while Marshall led Coast Guard with nine. The Bears entered the break with the 46-24 lead.
Coast Guard came out of the break looking to get back in the game. The Bears got a pair of free throws from Marshall and David Anderson and Anderson and Zach Wells each added a jumper. Jimmy Knusden added a beautiful long ball from the top left part of the key in the run to pull within fifteen. Salem State, however, was able to steal back the momentum starting with a swooshed three from Nate Robertson just over four minutes into the half. Despite tough defense and aggressive offense from the Bears, the Vikings continued to control the play and walked off the court with their first win of the season.
Leading the way tonight for the Vikings was Simpson with 19. Justin Nieves added 18 for Salem State. Anderson led the Bears with 16. Marshall had 14 for Coast Guard.