WILLIAMSTOWN -- It wouldn't be accurate or fair to call Friday night's game a coming-out party for Williams center Mike Mayer. But the preseason All-American is one step closer to where he wants to be.
Mayer scored a season-best 26 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds as the 10th-ranked Ephs held off No. 19 Bowdoin 69-64 before a standing-room-only crowd at Chandler Gym.
Mayer scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and forced Bowdoin's 7-foot center John Swords to foul out after scoring eight points and getting nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
"It felt good because I've been hurt," Mayer said. "I just try to go out there and do what my team needed. It feels good to play well."
Mayer helped ice the Eph victory by scoring five of his team's final six points. He hit three consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds; turning a one-point Williams lead into a two-possession game.
Mayer sprained an ankle in an 80-64 win over St. Joseph's (Vt.) back on Nov. 20 and did not play again until Dec. 29 in the Washington & Lee Tournament. He admitted that he was still behind his teammates as far as conditioning is concerned.
"I think he's getting closer to where he was prior to the injury," Williams coach Mike Maker said of the 6-foot-9 senior from Durham, N.C. "Mike's a premier player and he's a focal point in our offense. "With every game, I think he'll get closer and closer to being at his optimal level."
Freshman Duncan Robinson had a career-high 26 points on 7-of-10 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
It was a game where Williams (12-2, 2-1 in NESCAC) trailed only twice, the last time at 9-7 with 14:10 left. Bowdoin (12-1, 2-1) gave up 11 unanswered points and never led again.
And coming off Saturday's 84-73 loss at Amherst, Maker said it was an outstanding bounce back victory.
"I think this is a marquee win for us," the coach said. "Bowdoin came in undefeated. I think they're every bit as good as the top-level teams in our league."
The Ephs took a 30-27 win into the locker room at halftime, and while the Polar Bears withstood a big Williams run in the second half, they weren't able to take the lead.
Part of the reason the Ephs were able to hold the Polar Bears off was the shooting of Robinson.
The freshman had 12 points at halftime and hit a huge 3-point shot with time running down in the second half.
The Polar Bears had cut the lead to four points on two free throws by Swords. The next time down court, Robinson caught a pass from Taylor Epley and drained a trey from deep along the right wing. That gave Williams enough of a cushion to withstand a late Bowdoin run.
It was an unusual sight to see Mayer as the smaller center on the floor. At 6-9, the Williams center is usually the biggest player on the floor. Swords was a good three inches taller.
"That was different. He's really good," said Mayer. "He's really long and alters a ton of shots. I had to change how I was shooting to get around him."
Mayer changed how Swords played, too. The Bowdoin center fouled out and Mayer was an impressive 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.