WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team fell to rival Amherst (21-2, 9-0 NESCAC) 65-48 today. The Ephs (20-3, 8-1 NESCAC), who are ranked seventh in the country, have lost just three times this year – twice to Amherst, who is ranked sixth. The two teams met earlier this year at Amherst. That game, which Amherst won 83-67, only counted towards Little Three play and did not count towards NESCAC play. With today's win, Amherst sits alone atop the NESCAC with a perfect league record after ruining the Ephs'. The win also makes them Little Three champions.
Amherst controlled for most of the game. With the Lord Jeffs up 15-9, the Ephs quickly got back in the game with a lob inside from Nate Robertson to Michael Mayer. Mayer was fouled on the play and converted the three-point play. Amherst, however, continued to push and quickly took back the decisive lead. The Lord Jeffs scored eight straight points to make it a double-digit lead. Allen Williamson made a jumper before Ben Pollack finished in the pant. Williamson then finished inside as well. Peter Kaasila capped the run with a lay-up resulting from a steal by Connor Green. He was fouled on the play but was unable to convert the three-point opportunity. Sean Hoffmann finally broke the drought for the Ephs with a 1-for-2 performance from the line.
The Ephs then called timeout to try to gain back some momentum. Out of the timeout, they forced a turnover. On the resulting play, Mayer passed inside to James Klemm, who was alone in the lane. Klemm was fouled on the play and went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe to cut the lead to 23-15 with just under seven minutes to play. Robertson then converted both ends of a one-and-one opportunity to cut the lead to six. Willy Workman responded for the Lord Jeffs, however, as he drove to the hoop for a bucket. Mayer converted down the other end to keep the Ephs' deficit at six.
Amherst continued to hold onto the lead. Aaron Toomey knocked down a three from the top right part of the arc with a hand in his face. Down the other end, Epley converted one of two free throws. Workman responded with the same performance from the line for Amherst. Robertson finished a lay-up for the Ephs, but Williams turned the ball over on its next possession, and the Lord Jeffs made the Ephs pay with a baseline three ball from David Kalema. John Weinheimer responded for the Ephs with a huge drive to the hoop for two to make it 32-24. The Ephs were able to force a turnover on Amherst's next possession but were unable to convert off of the ensuing possession. Down the other end, Robertson was fouled on a rebound and went to the line with the Ephs in the bonus. He converted both opportunities to make it 32-26 with just under two minutes to play. After the two teams traded free throws, Workman swooshed a three from the top of the arc with a hand in his face. The Ephs got the ball back for the final shot of the half, and Mayer finished a lay-up off of an offensive rebound to go into the break with the Ephs down 36-29.
Robertson recorded 11 points for the Ephs, and Mayer added ten in the first half. Workman and Williamson each had ten for the Lord Jeffs in the opening frame.
Out of the locker rooms, Williamson hit a pull-up jumper in the paint for Amherst, but Weinheimer drove to the hoop for the Ephs. Williamson then hit yet another hoop for the Lord Jeffs. With the Ephs unable to convert down the other end, Amherst forced a foul and Toomey nailed a three off of the inbound play to push the lead two twelve just under two minutes into the second half. Epley responded with a finish inside, and a 2-for-2 performance at the line from Robertson cut the lead back to single digits. Amherst, however, immediately gained back the momentum with a beautiful alley-oop pass from Toomey to Williamson, who hammered home the dunk for the Lord Jeffs.
The Ephs continued to fight. Mayer swooshed a three from the top of the key before hitting a jumper just inside the arc to cut the lead to 46-40 with 14 minutes to play. The Lord Jeffs, however, seemed nonplussed as they quickly responded with a jumper from Kalema and a lay-up from Toomey to push the lead back to double digits. A baseline three from Toomey made the lead 13 and a downtown three ball from Workman made it 16 with just over ten minutes left on the clock. Amherst's hot hand didn't stop there, and Toomey hit another long ball to make the lead 19. Williams was forced to call a timeout with 9:17 let to play. Unable to score out of the break, the Ephs could not gain the momentum necessary to get back in the game. Despite great effort from the Ephs on both ends of the floor, Amherst walked off the court with the win.
Mayer led the Ephs today with 17 points. He also recorded ten rebounds for a double-double. Robertson was the only other Eph in double digits tonight with 13. The Ephs shot 30.4% from the floor. Williams had to adjust its lineup tonight as it was without starting guard Daniel Wohl due to illness.
Leading the way for Amherst was Williamson with 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Toomey added 14, and Workman recorded an impressive double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Kalema was also in double digits with ten for the Lord Jeffs, who shot 45.6% from the field.
After the game, Coach Mike Maker said, "I don't know if it's about shooting. The bottom line is, I thought both teams used the energy and the emotion of a big game with a great crowd on the defensive end of the floor. The difference in the game is that they executed offensively and made big shots by their big players, and we did not execute offensively and did not make big shots from our guys who normally score."
He added, "At halftime, I was really happy. We didn't execute offensively or shoot the ball particularly well, but we were only down seven. We were really happy as a staff because we were getting the energy, the effort, and all that, but we weren't executing well enough. When you play a team that has their kind of athleticism, length, experience, physicality, etc., and is very familiar with us, you need to go deeper. I didn't think we did that."
Maker was proud of his team's effort though; he said that in the locker room, "I told them that I was really proud of the effort. I thought they gave great effort. Our spirit was great. All of our intangibles were fantastic; I'm a lucky coach. However, I told them that if we had won this game, I didn't want to get too high, and if we lost, I certainly didn't want to get too low. We have a huge game coming up on Tuesday against Trinity, so that was the first thing. I told them to give a lot of credit to Amherst because they're very, very good, and they're very well coached."
He added, "The second thing I told them was that if we are going to meet our full potential as a team, we need more discipline and detail offensively. To beat a team like that, whether we're playing in the NESCAC tournament or fortunate enough to make it to the NCAAs, [because] we've always hung our hat on offensive execution and being able to carve teams up that may have an advantage with regards to physicality and athleticism, we just need to go deeper offensively and control the game on the offensive end."
The Ephs will look to rebound on Tuesday against Trinity. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM.