Monday February 11, 2013

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Mark Twain once wrote "There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damn lies and statistics." Sometimes, however, the numbers do tell the whole truth.

Take Sunday's Williams-Amherst men's basketball game. All one really needs to know is that Williams shot 7 of 23 from the floor in the first half and 7 of 23 in the second half, and the sixth-ranked Lord Jeffs got out of the Purple Valley with a 65-48 win over the seventh-ranked Ephs. It was Williams' first NESCAC loss and gives Amherst a Little Three championship.

"It's always frustrating when shots don't drop throughout all facets of the game," said Williams guard Nate Robertson, one of four seniors honored during pregame Senior Day festivities. "It's definitely infectious when the ball doesn't go in as much as it's infectious when the ball does go in."

Robertson finished with 13 points, but was only 2 for 9 from the field. Michael Mayer had a game-high 17 points and completed a double-double with 10 rebounds. The Ephs played without starter Daniel Wohl, who was ill.

But Mayer was only 6 of 14. Mayer, Taylor Epley and James Klemm are the top three scorers for Williams (20-3, 8-1 in NESCAC), and were averaging some 45 points per game. On Sunday, they scored 23 points on a combined 7-for-32 shooting from the field.

"The difference in the game is that [Amherst] executed offensively and made big shots by their big players," Williams coach Mike Maker said, "and we did not execute offensively and did not make big shots from our guys who normally score."

Allan Williamson had a team-high 16 points for the Lord Jeffs (21-2, 9-0). But it was clutch second-half shots by Aaron Toomey (14 points) and Willy Workman (13) who led Amherst to the victory.

It was the most lopsided loss at Chandler for the Ephs against the Lord Jeffs since losing 64-45 back in 2007.

Williams led for the last time at 9-8 on two free throws by Robertson. Williamson's drive to the basket put the Lord Jeffs ahead for good.

Despite shooting so poorly, Williams was in the game until the midpoint of the second half. Mayer hit a jumper from the top of the key with 14:05 left in the second half, and the Ephs were down only 46-40. But over the next 6 minutes, 11 seconds, Amherst went on a 13-0 run to put the game away. Williams was 0 for 7 in that run with two turnovers.

Maker called time out with 11:45 left and his team down by 10 points. Coming out of the time out, the Ephs failed to score when Robertson's layup rolled off the rim and Sean Hoffman couldn't score on the rebound. Amherst's Workman got the rebound, brought the ball into the front court and found Toomey, who drained a 3 from the right corner.

Toomey and Workman teamed up on the next 3-pointer. Klemm, who was 0 for 5 from 3-point range, missed his long shot and Toomey got the long rebound. The junior point guard got the ball to Workman, whose 3-pointer found its target. Again, the Ephs misfired on offense and Toomey found the range at his end. A 10-point lead was now 19, and the game was out of reach.

This wasn't usual for Williams. The Ephs came into the game ranked fifth in the country in field-goal percentage at 51 percent.

"They couldn't shoot the ball. Some of it was a little bit of defense and we'll take some of that," said Amherst coach Dave Hixon. "They just had a bad day. Points were tough to come by. But we weren't great either. We threw balls off people's hands and missed layups. If you paid more than $5 for this ticket today, I think you probably got cheated."

Despite the loss, the Ephs still have a chance to earn the hosting responsibilities for the NESCAC semifinals and finals. Right now, Williams and Middlebury each have one league loss. If the fifth-ranked Panthers beat visiting Amherst on Tuesday night and Williams beats Trinity, the three top teams will each have one loss -- and will have all lost to each other.

That would require a coin flip to determine the semifinal host, if Williams advances.

"If we are going to meet our full potential as a team, we need more discipline and detail offensively," Maker said to his players after the game. "To beat a team like [Amherst], whether we're playing in the NESCAC tournament or fortunate enough to make it to the NCAAs ... we just need to go deeper offensively and control the game on the offensive end."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.