WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Williams College men’s basketball team is 13-0 at Chandler Gym in NCAA Division III tournament play. But if the Ephs are to reach their third Final Four in the last five years, they’ll have to do it from the road.
"We love playing in Chandler. We have great support from the community," said Williams’ Daniel Wohl after Saturday night’s win over Gordon in the tournament’s second round. "We love playing here. We’ll go on the road if we have to. Obviously, we’d like to host this weekend. If we don’t that’s fine. We’ll take the show on the road."
The road will take Williams to Fredericksburg, Va., and the University of Mary Washington, for the Sweet 16 of the tournament.
Williams will play Albertus Magnus from New Haven, Conn., in one Sweet 16 games. Mary Washington will host Virginia Wesleyan in the second game. The winners play on Saturday for the right to return to Virginia four days later to prepare for the Division III Final Four.
The Ephs have been able to play at Chandler throughout head coach Mike Maker’s tenure. The only tournament losses by Maker’s teams came in Salem. Williams lost to St. Thomas (Minn.) last year in the Elite Eight, lost to The College of Wooster in the 2011 national semifinals and lost to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the 2010 national championship game.
The last time Williams advanced to a Final Four on the road was back in 1998. Harry Sheehy’s team beat Hamilton and St. Lawrence at St. Lawrence before losing to eventual champion Wisconsin-Platteville in the Final Four. Wisconsin-Platteville was coached by current University of Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
Williams reached the 2014 Sweet 16 with a hard-fought 81-63 win over Commonwealth Coast Conference champion Gordon College.
The Ephs trailed 38-31 at halftime, but outscored the Fighting Scots by 25 in the second half to win going away. The 50-point output by the Williams offense was not a surprise to any observer of the Ephs. The 25 points given up by the Williams defense matched the lowest points output by a Williams opponent this year. The Ephs held Colby and Middlebury to 25 points in a half in a pair of victories.
"For us to advance, I don’t think there’s a better offensive team in the country than us, I really believe that," Maker said after the game. "If our defense can catch up with our offense -- look out.
"It’s going to need to. As you advance in this tournament, you need to be solid in that area. There have been times this year where we haven’t been. Now that the stakes are getting higher, I think our attention to detail is getting better."
On Saturday night, Wohl led the Eph scorers with 18 points, 10 in the second half. In the last 10 games, Wohl is one of four different players to score in double figures. Senior center Mike Mayer has done it five times and freshman forward Duncan Robinson has done it three times.
"It’s somebody different every game, but it’s balanced. That makes us harder to guard. We’re getting more and more people stepping up defensively in that area and we’re getting better," said Maker.
Amherst, the other NESCAC team still alive, will host a Sweet 16 pod at LeFrak Gymnasium. Amherst will play Plattsburgh State while Richard Stockton will face Morrisville (N.Y.) in the other game. The winner will face the winner of the Williams pod in the national semifinal.
It was the first weekend on the big stage for freshmen Mike Greenman, Duncan Robinson and Daniel Aronowitz. Greenman and Robinson, both starters, finished with 16 points each. It was three straight 3-point hoops by Greenman at the start of the second half that got the Ephs back in the game.
The stage apparently was not too big for any of the freshmen.
"Everyone knows it’s win or go home," said Greenman. "If you lose, your season is over and you think about what could have been.
"It’s what makes NCAA basketball in March so much fun."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.