AMHERST, MA – The Williams men's basketball team fell to rival Amherst (10-2, 2-0 NESCAC) today 84-73. The loss is just the Ephs' second of the year and ends an 11-game win streak for the Ephs (11-2, 1-1 NESCAC). The two teams will have a rematch on January 22nd at Williams. That game will count only as a Little Three match-up and not as league play.
The two teams traded hoops for the opening minutes, but the Lord Jeffs looked to pull away with a 3-ball from Connor Green to make it 15-12 with 12:24 on the clock. Ben Pollack then hit a jumper from the free throw line to push the lead to five and force an Eph timeout.
Out of the timeout, Michael Mayer backed down a pair of Amherst defenders in the paint to cut the deficit to three, but Amherst responded with a jumper from Green. After a missed opportunity from the Ephs, the Lord Jeffs pushed their lead to 22-14 when Aaron Toomey finished in the paint and was fouled. He converted the three-point play. Down the other end, the Ephs broke up the Amherst run with a finish inside from Taylor Epley. However, a misplayed rebound on the Ephs' defensive end gave the Lord Jeffs a second opportunity, and they pushed the lead back to eight at 24-16 with a finish inside from Green.
The Ephs got back in the game with nine straight points. Hayden Rooke-Ley drove to the hoop for two with a finish high off the backboard before Epley nailed a 3-pointer from the top right part of the key. On the next Amherst possession, Duncan Robinson stole the ball and passed to Daniel Wohl, who crossed over the defender and finished to make it 24-23 and force Amherst's first timeout. Amherst could not convert out of the break, and Wohl went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe to give the Ephs the 25-24 lead. With 7:32 on the clock, Tom Killian broke up the Ephs' run with a drive through the paint; he was fouled and converted the and-one opportunity to give the Lord Jeffs back the lead.
Killian's hoop gave the momentum back to the Lord Jeffs and was the beginning of an 11-0 Amherst run. Killian hit a long ball and Green finished inside off of an offensive rebound to push the lead to 32-25 with 6:35 left in the opening frame. The Ephs called a timeout, but Killian stole the ball out of the break. He swooshed a 3-ball from the top-of-the-key off of a pretty pass from Toomey. Robinson finally ended the Amherst run with a long ball of his own for the Ephs. Rooke-Ley then knocked down a jump shot to pull the Ephs within five with 4:31 on the clock. After Killian finished yet another lay-up for the Lord Jeffs, the Ephs cut the deficit to just three with a beautiful three from Kilcullen. Four points was the closest the Ephs got for the rest of the half as Toomey nailed a 3-ball and Green finished in the paint to push the lead to nine. On the Ephs' final possession of the opening frame, Wohl lobbed a leading pass inside to Mayer, who finished without the backboard to cut the lead to 42-35. Toomey, though, got the half's final say as he drove to the hoop and finished high off the board just before going out of bounds. The Lord Jeffs entered the break with the 44-35 lead.
Green had 16 points for the Lord Jeffs in the opening frame, while Killian added 13. Mayer and Epley each had eight for the Ephs.
Out of the break, Killian continued to carry Amherst. With the Ephs unable to convert on their opening possession, Killian pushed the Amherst lead to double digits when he finished inside off of an inbound pass. David Kalema then stole the ball for the Lord Jeffs and took it the length of the court for two as he finished with a dunk. Robinson finished inside for the Ephs before Killian made it 51-37 with a three-ball from the left side.
The Ephs continued to fight to get back in the game. Mayer went 1-for-2 from the line. Wohl pulled down the rebound on his second shot, and Rooke-Ley finished the drive to the hoop on the resulting play to cut the deficit to 11. The Lord Jeffs responded with a six-point run with a lay-up apiece from Killian, David George, and Kalema. Amherst held the decisive lead for much of the rest of the half.
With just under seven minutes to play, the Ephs began to fight back. Down 71-56, Mayer had a beautiful put-back before Epley hit a 3-ball with a hand in his face to cut the deficit to ten. Toomey hit a 3-ball in response, but Wohl threw down a dunk to keep the Ephs within eleven. After Epley picked up a loose ball in the Ephs' defensive end, Mayer finished a dunk of his own to give the Ephs their first single-digit deficit since the start of the half at 74-65 with 4:40 to play.
Out of a Lord Jeff timeout, Kalema back-doored his defender and finished the easy lay-up. Following a turnover on the offensive end, the Ephs got a stop defensively. Down the other end, Mayer pulled down a difficult offensive board and backed down his defender. He finished the lay-up on a spin move to make it 76-67 with 3:24 left in the game. The Ephs continued to push but were unable to cut the deficit to fewer than seven before the game was out.
Green and Killian led the way for the Lord Jeffs with 23 apiece. Toomey recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists. Amherst was 48.5% from the floor on the night.
Leading the way for the Ephs was Mayer, who recorded a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Epley added 15 and Wohl and Robinson had 12 apiece for the Ephs, who shot 44.1% from the field.
Said head coach Mike Maker after the game, "I think you have to give Amherst a lot of credit; they were absolutely terrific. I think they have two of the better players in the country at our level in Toomey and Green. They were playing on their home floor. I thought they really hurt us on the offensive glass and extra opportunities, extra possessions. We had several refinements defensively, and we didn't shoot the ball from three like we're capable of. I think those areas are the reasons for the end result."
Added Maker about the Ephs' late run, "I thought the momentum changed when we went to our zone defense. I think we got Amherst out of rhythm which gave us opportunities in the open court and gave us confidence. I'm proud of our guys because we didn't quit down 17. We didn't get a stop when we needed it to cut even further into the lead."
He said, "We did not pay attention to detail. I think we need practice time to improve in areas defensively with communication and assignments. I think if we do that we can beat anybody home or away."
The Ephs return to the court on Friday night to host their first home NESCAC match-up. They will take on Bowdoin at 8:00 PM.
Said Maker looking ahead, "We're looking forward to getting back in Chandler. We've played five straight road games and won 11 in a row. Amherst is a very good team and a well-coached team. I know our guys will respond favorably this weekend in front of what I hope will be a supportive crowd."