AMHERST, MA – The ninth-ranked Williams men's basketball team lost to rival Amherst 83-67 tonight. The Lord Jeffs (16-2) were ranked fourteenth going into tonight's game. The loss is just the Ephs' second of the year as they also move to 16-2 on the season. Tonight's game only counted towards Little Three play. The two teams will play their NESCAC game on February 8th at Williams. Although Amherst has now won three straight games against the Ephs, Williams leads the all-time series 117-91.
The game started out with the two teams trading hoops, but the Ephs started to pull away with a 10-0 run that started when Michael Mayer went two-for-two from the charity stripe with 8:09 on the clock in the opening frame. The next time down the court, Taylor Epley grabbed an offensive board to keep the possession alive. He finished with a long ball to make it 30-24. On the following possession, Epley nailed another three to push the lead to nine. Nate Robertson added the final two points of the run with a lay-up with 6:28 to play.
Despite the momentum from the run, the Ephs were unable to pull away. Amherst countered the Ephs with a run of its own to end the half. After trading hoops, the Lord Jeffs went on a 15-0 run to regain their early lead. Peter Kaasila finished in the paint with just under five minutes to play to make it 38-29. Aaron Toomey then finished from behind the arc before Allen Williamson put up a pretty jumper to cut the Eph lead to four. Toomey hit another three ball to pull within one, and the Lord Jeffs took the lead at 39-38 when Williamson stole the ball and took it the length of the court for two. He was fouled on the play and was able to convert the three-point opportunity. Amherst ended the half with a put back from Kaasila and went into the locker room with the 42-38 lead.
Out of the break, the Ephs looked to take back the lead. After trading baskets to start the half, Williams pulled within one off of a long ball from Mayer. Toomey hit a jump shot on the next Amherst possession before Mayer hit one for the Ephs to stay within a point.
Amherst responded with a 10-2 run. Kaasila tipped the ball into the net before Toomey finished a lay-up to push the Amherst lead to five. Willy Workman then hit a long ball for the Jeffs. Robertson broke up the run with a bucket in the paint. Workman, though, made it 58-50 with a jumper inside. He was fouled on the play and finished from the charity stripe.
The Ephs continued to fight to get back in the game. Sean Hoffmann scored in the paint with 12:44 on the clock to cut the lead to 59-52. After Workman countered for the Lord Jeffs with a lay-up of his own, Epley finished in the paint as well. Despite strong effort at both ends of the floor, however, the Ephs were unable to pull any closer than a seven-point deficit for the rest of the game. The Lord Jeffs pulled away in the final minutes of the game as the Ephs were forced to foul.
Workman led all scorers tonight with 24 points. He added 11 rebounds for a double-double. Toomey scored 20 points. Williamson had 11 points in the game, and Tom Killian had another 11 as well as ten rebounds for a double-double of his own. The Lord Jeffs shot 44.4% from the field on the night.
Leading the way for the Ephs was Mayer with 21 points. Epley added 17 and Robertson rounded out the double digits club with 11. The Ephs shot 41.9% from the floor.
Said Coach Mike Maker after the game, "We have to give Amherst a lot of credit; they played awfully well on their home floor. They shot a high percentage from the three point line and made more free throws than we attempted."
He went on to say, "We're disappointed, but we're not discouraged. We'll regroup, and we look forward to the opportunity to play Middlebury on Saturday."
Amherst held the Ephs to their second lowest shooting percentage of the year. Said Maker, "We're top ten in the country in three of those shooting percentages. Some of [the shooting percentage tonight] you have to give credit to Amherst, and some of that is that we had some open looks that go in usually that didn't go in. [Amherst was] terrific tonight; I thought our kids competed, but they made more shots than we did from the three-point line and the free throw line."
The Ephs look to rebound against third-ranked Middlebury on Saturday. Tip-off is in Chandler Gymnasium at 2:00 PM.
Said Maker looking ahead, "Our next game is the most important game. This is one game. [We]and Amherst are 16-2, and [we], Amherst and Middlebury are 5-0 in the league. We're sitting on top of the league. We have a huge game on Saturday against Middlebury, and that's all we're thinking about."