WILLIAMSTOWN -- Midway through the first half, ninth-ranked Williams had an eight-point lead on No. 6 Amherst and the capacity crowd in Chandler Gym was rocking.
That turned out to be the high point of the night for Williams, as the Lord Jeffs held the Ephs to five points in six minutes to take a lead they would not relinquish. Amherst beat Williams 82-70 in the nightcap of Wednesday’s Little Three doubleheader.
"They took control of the game on the offensive end. We just couldn’t get stops," Williams coach Mike Maker said. "They’re very difficult to guard. They have a lot of weapons and experienced weapons.
"I thought the effort was there, there’s no doubt about that. But clearly, we have a long way to go with our man-to-man defense."
The win gives Amherst (14-2) the Little Three title, as the Lord Jeffs are 3-0 in round-robin play.
Williams (13-3) played short-handed, as starting guard Hayden Rooke-Ley sat out the game and was in street clothes. His place was taken by freshman Mike Greenman, who made his first varsity start.
Rooke-Ley injured his left, or shooting, hand in Saturday’s win over Colby. Maker said that the junior from Eugene, Ore., could be back late in the regular season or for the NESCAC tournament. Freshman swingman Daniel Aronowitz hurt an ankle late in the second half and left Chandler with ice on his ankle.
While it was certain that while Williams missed Rooke-Ley’s scoring and floor acumen, the Amherst defense had a huge hand in the outcome of this one.
Four Williams starters came into Wednesday’s game scoring in double figures, and only two of them reached that. The Lord Jeffs held NESCAC player of the week Duncan Robinson to seven points, 8.6 below his scoring average. Taylor Epley, who entered the game averaging 14.7 points per game, was held without a point on 0-for-6 shooting from the floor and 0-for-4 from the 3-point line.
In the second half, Wohl was 2 for 2 from 3-point range, and the rest of the Ephs were a combined 0 for 11.
"I thought our discipline defensively was lacking and our execution on offense was actually decent," said Maker. "I thought we had good looks, but didn’t shoot a high percentage."
Four different Amherst players scored in double figures. Tom Killian had 21 points, David Kalema had 17, Connor Green had 10 and Ben Pollack came off the bench to score 12.
The Lord Jeffs say that it was their defense, particularly their defense on Epley and Robinson, that helped seize the victory. The two Williams sharpshooters were a combined 0 for 9 from beyond 3-point range.
"We both know each other so well. They heavily scout us, we heavily scout them," said Killian. "We know their tendencies. We just try to put in an effective defense to stop those tendencies."
Early on, it looked like the capacity crowd in Chandler was going to be treated to a real Williams-Amherst battle.
It was 9-0 when Williams scored seven unanswered points to take a 16-9 lead. Amherst answered with four to make it 16-13 with 12:25 left.
The Ephs upped the lead to 21-13 thanks to backup center Ryan Kilcullen, who scored five unanswered points. He caught a pass from Aronowitz for a nice basket inside, and then caught a pass from Epley and fired up a rainbow from 3-point range that swished home.
From that point, the Lord Jeffs outscored the Ephs 24-7 to take a 37-28 lead with 3:55 left. Kalema had a big hand in the run, making consecutive treys, and Killian finished the 24-point spurt by making a pair of free throws.
Amherst led 45-37 at halftime, and the Ephs got no closer.
"We got valuable minutes from three first-year players," said Maker, referring to Robinson, Greenman and Aronowitz. "I thought we learned a lot. Hopefully, we grow from it and get ready for Hamilton."
To reach Howard Herman:
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On Twitter: @howardherman.