FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- For the third time in five seasons, the Williams College men’s basketball team has reached the NCAA Division III Final Four.
The Ephs roared through the Mary Washington Regional by beating the hosts 79-46 Saturday night.
With the win, Williams advances to Salem, Va. to face archrival Amherst. The Lord Jeffs reached the Final Four with an 84-74 win over Morrisville (N.Y.) State.
The win by Williams (27-4) was accomplished by being efficient offensively and stout on defense.
The 46 points surrendered to the Eagles were the fewest points given up by a Mike Maker-coached team since Williams beat Vassar 92-42 back on Dec. 4, 2010.
Four different Ephs scored in double figures. Taylor Epley led the way with 19 points.
Duncan Robinson and Mike Mayer each registered double-doubles for the Ephs. Robinson finished with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Thirteen of those rebounds were on the defensive glass. Mayer, who extended his NCAA Tournament double-double streak to four games, had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Freshman point guard Mike Greenman chipped in with 13 points for the Ephs.
In the runup to this weekend, Maker had been saying that when his team’s defense catches up to the offense, the Ephs might be hard to stop. For the second consecutive night, Williams shut down its opponent’s leading scorer.
On Friday, it was Albertus Magnus’ Victor Ljuldjuraj, who was held eight points under his average. On Saturday, Mary Washington’s Bradley Riester was held to eight points on 2 of 16 from the field and 2 of 12 from 3-point range. The senior guard had scored 23 points in Friday’s win over Virginia Wesleyan and had been averaging 18 points per game.
How good was the Williams team defense? Williams held Mary Washington to 19.4 percent shooting from the floor in the first half and 23.1 percent for the game. The Eagles made 4 of 28 shots from 3-point range in the first half and were 7 of 45 from behind the arc in the game.
For the most part, this game was never truly in doubt.
Williams scored the game’s first four points, but fell behind 5-4 when Taylor Johnson drained a 3-point shot with 16:33 left in the first half. Epley answered that only 20 seconds later. It was the first of four treys Epley hit in the first half. The senior from Louisville was 4 for 8 from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes.
That 3-pointer also started a 11-0 run for the Ephs over the next four minutes that gave them a 15-5 lead. Mayer’s layup with 12:02 left in the half put the Ephs up 17-7. The Eagles never got the deficit under double figures again.
Williams led 43-20 at halftime thanks to 14 points from Epley, 11 from Robinson and 10 from Mayer.
In Amherst on Saturday, Aaron Toomey scored 31 points and David Kalema had 20 as the Lord Jeffs held off the visitors from upstate New York.
Amherst led by as many as 16 points in the second half before Morrisville’s Jordan Prior hit a 3-point shot to make it 66-58 with 5 minutes remaining. The Lord Jeffs iced the victory by going 10 for 10 from the foul line in the last four minutes.