Ephs defeat Catholic 89-78 in NCAA Second Round

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WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team defeated the Catholic University Cardinals (25-4) today in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament 89-78. With the win, the Ephs (25-4) will advance to the Third Round, which will take place next weekend. Game times and locations will be announced once all other Second-Round games have concluded.

The game was close from the opening tip-off. With Catholic up 17-11, the Ephs looked to get back in the game. Taylor Epley had a pretty put-back off of his own miss in the paint. Chris Kearney responded for Catholic with a monster of a dunk down the other end before Daniel Wohl hit a three ball from the top left part of the arc with 10:46 on the clock. Following a forced turnover, the Ephs cut the lead to one with a finish inside by Michael Mayer. The Ephs then took the lead behind two great plays by John Weinheimer. On the first, he got up over the defenders to finish a put back. He was fouled on the play but was unable to convert the three-point opportunity. On the next play, he stole the ball and took it the length of the court for two. On the next Eph possession, Mayer finished inside.

Catholic was unflustered by the Eph run. Steve Limberiou hit a long ball from the top left part of the key before Kearney dunked yet again off of a behind the back pass to tie the game up at 24 with 8:14 left to play in the half. The Ephs quickly gained back the lead when Nate Robertson went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe. Mayer then hit a three ball off of a pass from Epley to push the lead to five, a lead the Ephs would hold onto until the final minute.

With 1:46 left in the half, the Ephs actually put their lead to seven – tied with their largest lead of the game thus far – off of a jumper by Mayer. Catholic refused to go quietly into the locker room though. Bryson Fonville responded with a jumper. Fonville then came up with a huge defensive play when he took a charge with under thirty seconds on the clock. Eph coach Mike Maker got a technical foul for complaining about the call, and Nate Koenig went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe on the resulting free throws. The Cardinals cut the lead to one when Limberiou hit a long three while falling down from the right side of the key. The Ephs got one final possession, and Wohl hit a pull-up jumper from the left elbow at the buzzer to send the Ephs into the locker room up 41-38.

Each team had two double-digits scorers in the opening half: Epley scored 11 and Mayer 13 for the Ephs; Limberiou scored 11 and Kearney 13 for the Cardinals.

Out of the break, both teams looked to gain a decisive lead. Following a Robertson lay-up for the Ephs to start the half, Catholic got right back in the game. Koenig hit a long ball to cut the lead to two before Kearney went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. The Cardinals took the lead with a finish in the paint by Fonville to make it 44-43 just over two minutes into the half. They pushed their lead to three with a lay-up from Kearney. The Ephs finally broke the Cardinal run with a long ball from Wohl off of a pretty pass from Robertson to tie the game up at 46 apiece.

For much of the rest of the half, the teams traded hoops. Catholic eventually gained a five-point lead when Fonville created his own opportunity for a long ball from the top left part of the arc. After Robertson converted both shots from the charity stripe, Fonville had a pretty pull-up jumper. Mayer responded with a nice finish in the paint after he backed down his defender. The Ephs tied the game back up after Wohl came up with a huge block in the defensive end. He swooshed a baseline three on the resulting possession. 

After trading buckets, the Ephs gained a decisive lead behind a pair of three-balls from their senior captains Robertson and James Klemm to make it 76-70 with just over four minutes on the clock. Catholic responded with a great three of its own: Fonville drove to the hoop and bounced the ball backwards between his legs to Limberiou, who hit the much-needed deep three for the Cardinals. The Ephs, however, continued to push as Mayer finished inside and Epley hit a three ball to push the lead to eight. Another three ball from Klemm made the Eph lead 11 with less than two minutes to play. Despite aggressive play by the Cardinals, they were unable to overcome the double-digit lead, and the Ephs walked off the court with the win.

Leading the way tonight for the Ephs was Mayer with 25 points; he also had eight rebounds. Epley added 14 for Williams, and Wohl rounded out the double-digit club with 11. The Ephs shot 47.2% from the floor on the day.

Limberiou led the way with 20 for the Cardinals. Despite missing the final 12 minutes of the game due to an injury, Kearney added 16. Fonville also had 16 for Catholic, who shot 48.1% from the field.

See below for both teams' comments:
Head Coach Steve Howes's opening statement: "That's a heck of a basketball game between two very high powered programs. I said to somebody earlier, this was an Indiana-Kansas type matchup, and I think it played itself out that way, except in the last five minutes where we couldn't get a stop and couldn't get a score."
"I'm proud of my young men, they played incredibly hard and played through the adversity of being on the road... Heck of an effort. Hats off to Williams, they deserved to win in the last five minutes. They made the plays, and I really feel like that's a team we're going to look at that goes on to the Final Four."
Steve Limberiou:
"I thought we actually made some stops, but it seemed like they would end up getting an offensive rebound and a kickout and another three-point opportunity." 
"That was the best shooting team we've played, especially from three. Without a doubt."
Chris Kearney (about why he left the game): 
"Just went up for an offensive rebound and came down and landed on someone's foot. It's really unfortunate that it had to happen that way, but it shows a lot to the other guys playing without me and still playing hard."
Coach Mike Maker's opening statement: "First of all, I'm not sure that college basketball gets anything better than that today. Two proud basketball programs with rich traditions going toe to toe. It was an entertaining game in an electric environment."
"I thought offensively we played freely and shared the ball. We were uptempo, and that was our goal going into the game."
"We have a competitive group. I think there's more there than meets the eye if you're unfamiliar with our team. We have a lot of lean, lanky guys, but they have a lot of heart, and we have a lot of winners on this team that have been in this kind of environment before."
Nate Robertson:
On his late three-pointer: "Typically we would not run plays for me to shoot a three... Mike made a great read, he drew a lot of attention and found the open guy. I just felt lucky the ball went in."
Taylor Epley:
On his big three pointer: "I remember just coming off the alley screen on the elbow. Nate made a great look and I just took the open shot."
Michael Mayer:
On his matchup with Kearney: "He was really good. He was really athletic and really skilled and a tough cover... I felt bad for him when he got hurt. But it was a really fun matchup, and I knew it was going to be a big one and a tough one."