WILLIAMSTOWN >> The Williams College men's basketball team had some opening night jitters Friday night. The Ephs got over them in a hurry.
Williams took an 18-point lead late in the first half, saw it get whittled down to three in the second, but the Ephs held Salem State to one basket in the final six minutes en route to a 73-62 win in the nightcap of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament. It was the season opener for Williams, and marked the first time in three years that the Ephs had won their season opener.
With the victory, the Ephs will play Mount St. Vincent today at 4 for the title. Mount St. Vincent beat SUNY-New Paltz 88-86 in overtime in the opener. New Paltz and Salem will play in the consolation game at 2.
"I was going into this weekend thinking about what we'd learn about the team. You know a lot in practice, but you learn a lot competing," said Williams coach Kevin App. "What we saw in practice was true. We have some depth.
"If you would have told me Dan Aronowitz would barely play and not score a whole lot, and we'd beat a really talented Salem State team, I'd have been shocked."
Aronowitz, the top returning scorer, scored only four points in 13 minutes of play.
The Ephs were led by freshmen Bobby Casey, Kyle Scadlock and James Heskett. Casey had 15 points to lead the Ephs. He was 5 for 9 shooting from the floor and the lefty was 4 of 7 from outside the 3-point arc. Scadlock had 14 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Heskett had 11 points.
Williams shot 26 of 64 from the floor to Salem's 22 for 71. Williams had 14 assists on those 26 hoops. Ed Flynn had 11 rebounds to pace the Ephs.
Salem's Billy Muse came off the bench to lead the Vikings (1-3) with a game-high 19 points. Shaquan Murray had 13 for the Vikings, who really missed forward Drew Healy. Healy played 10 minutes and scored four points before going down with an ankle injury.
Williams played 12 of the 14 players it had in uniform Friday night. Nine of the 12 played a minimum of 14 minutes.
"I was proud of everybody," said App. "I thought guys came in and proved it would be different guys every night. Tonight it was one group because they played the hardest on defense and gave us the best chance to win. Tomorrow, it has a chance to be a completely different group."
Williams (1-0) led 39-23 at halftime, but Salem came out and scored six unanswered points to open the second half. Each time the Vikings got close, Williams held them off.
But with 5:34 remaining in the game, Salem's Zach Hurynowicz drove through traffic to score a basket that cut Williams' lead to 63-60. One minute later, guard Chris Galvin found Scadlock for a back-door dunk that gave the Ephs a five point lead with 4:19 left. The Williams defense held the Vikings to one hoop the rest of the way, while the left-handed Casey hit back-to-back 3 pointers to help the Ephs pull away.
"Our coaching staff's message the entire year, especially with this group this year, we can't let runs by other teams or calls by refs get us down," said App. "We need to have the next play up, the next man up mentality."