Williams College (28-4) hit on 56.7% of their field goal attempts in the first half to build a 45-32 lead at the break over defending NCAA DIII champion and archrival Amherst (27-4) on the way to a 98-69 win and a berth in tomorrow's NCAA title tilt.
As well as the Ephs shot in the first half they were even better in the second half, connecting on 70% of their 30 shots. Couple hot shooting with a solid zone defense that limited Amherst to 38.2% shooting in the first half and 38.6% for the game and you have the recipe for a Williams win that ended an 8-game Amherst win streak in the series, an 11-game Lord Jeff win streak coming into the game, and extended the Ephs' mastery over Amherst in the NCAA Tournament to 5-0 all-time.
Commenting afterwards Eph head coach Mike Maker said, "I must be an idiot because I am so stubborn about playing man and we had not been able to guard them. But at Mary Washington our zone was terrific so we gave Amherst 40 minutes of zone tonight."
"We looked at the numbers and when we played zone we held them to 40% shooting and in man it was 50% and they got to the foul line – I'm stubborn about man, but we're a zone team now," added Maker.
"I don't think anyone saw that coming, but I'm really proud of our team because we've battled through some things injury-wise and we are playing well now," added Maker. "I know we are tough to guard and I thought if we could pick up our defense we would be dangerous."
The Williams 2-3 zone was so effective that Amherst's leading scorer Aaron Toomey (20.5 ppg) was held to just 3 shots in the first half, all misses, and three points on the night. Toomey had 8 shots on the night.
A Connor Green jumper from 12 feet gave Amherst the lead, 18-17, for the second and last time of the contest at 11:33 of the first half.
A drive down the lane by the Ephs' Duncan Robinson on the Ephs' next possession answered the Green bucket with 11:16 left and Williams never looked back. A layup and two threes by Robinson powered the Eph surge over the last 10 minutes of the first half that created the 13-point advantage.
In the first half the Ephs hit on 7 of 14 three-pointers, while Amherst made 4-14. Williams had 19 rebounds to 15 for the Lord Jeffs and although the Ephs led in turnovers, 7-6, they also led in assists 11-6.
Robinson hit a three to open the second half and that was followed by a jumper in the lane by Mike Greenman, and then a three by Taylor Epley and another 3-point bomb by Greenman from in front of the Eph bench, boosting the Ephs' lead to 56-32 before David Kalema of Amherst stopped the Eph run at 17:24 with a traditional 3-point play.
The efficiency of the Eph offense began to wear down the Amherst defense. "There's not a whole lot to say other than congratulations to Williams," said Amherst head coach Dave Hixon. "They played great. They shot the ball really well and the harder we chased them the better they executed their offense and got layups out of it."
Every time Amherst would find a way to score a hoop in the second half the Ephs would answer with two and sometimes three of their own and the lead continually expanded until it reached its peak at 30, 96-66, on a Mike Greenman jumper off penetration with 2:31 to play.
Sophomore Adam Harrell netted the Ephs' final bucket on a driving layup and the Williams registered an impressive 98-69 win.
Eph freshman standout Duncan Robinson led all scorers with 30 points, connecting on 13 of 18 shots. "The whole year the team has been very supportive of me and the upperclassmen have been great," said Robinson. "This game it was me, but tomorrow it could be someone else. 13 of 18 from the floor – that's just guys getting me open and getting me good looks and also, we have other guys on the team who draw a lot of attention defensively."
Robinson had company in double figures with Mike Mayer netting 19, Taylor Epley 18, Mike Greenman 12 and Dan Wohl 10.
Mayer recorded his 5th straight double double in the NCAA Tournament snaring 10 rebounds. Wohl handed out 8 assists.
Connor Green led Amherst with 26 and Tom Killian added 20.
Eph junior guard Dan Wohl said, "In the locker room at halftime we talked about how we needed to keep working hard and we would win the first five minutes of the second half and then the next five."
Williams will take on Wisconsin-Whitewater after the Warhawks downed Illinois Wesleyan 71-63 behind 30 points from KJ Evans.
"Whitewater is a very talented, well-coached team, and their quickness will be a challenge for us," said Maker. "They're more than a one-person team.
The Eph seniors are now 100-22 in their four years.
Duncan Robinson with four made threes tonight now leads the Ephs with 79 and senior Taylor Epley is one behind at 78.
Head coach Mike Maker now has the most NCAA Tournament wins at Williams and is 16-3 (.842)
The Ephs will play in their 4th NCAA title tilt tomorrow, winning in 2003, and finishing second in 2004 and 2010.
Williams will take a 5-game win streak into tomorrow's game.
Mike Mayer has now posted 5 straight NCAA Tournament double doubles
Epley and Robinson tied with 75 3s made. Robinson now leads the Ephs in threes made with 79 and Taylor Epley has 78 this season.