Williams men's basketball can't keep pace with defending champ
AMHERST -- If nothing else, the Williams College men's basketball team is looking forward to playing at Chandler Gym next weekend.
"We've played five straight road games. We haven't had a home game since Dec. 7. We went 4-1 in that stretch, so we're excited to get back," said Eph guard Daniel Wohl. "Right now, we're just concerned about Bowdoin and Colby next weekend.
"And as much as it stings, we get to see these guys in 11 days."
The ride home to the Berkshires won't be an extremely happy one after fifth-ranked Williams (11-2, 1-1 NESCAC) had a 11-game winning streak end in an 84-73 loss to Little Three rival and eighth-ranked Amherst on Saturday afternoon. It was Williams' sixth-straight loss to the Lord Jeffs.
Amherst took the lead for keeps midway through the first half. The Lord Jeffs led by nine at halftime and by as many as 17 in the second half. Williams did cut the lead to eight on Mike Mayer's dunk with 4:45 left but got no closer.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Amherst. They played their tails off, and they're a very good team right now," said Williams forward Taylor Epley. "I think they outplayed us today.
"To put it in perspective for us, I think we have a very high ceiling and we haven't even begun to reach that yet."
Connor Green and Tom Killian shared game-high scoring honors with 23 points each for Amherst. Mayer had a double-double for the Ephs with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Epley (15 points), Wohl (12 points) and Duncan Robinson (12 points) led the Williams offense.
"It was a big team effort. When they went on a run, we either got a big stop defensively, got a rebound, or somebody hit a big shot," Amherst guard Aaron Toomey said. "That just shows a lot of character on our team."
It was a mano-a-mano struggle early on and Williams took a 10-7 lead on five unanswered points. John Weinheimer gave the Ephs the 3-point lead after making the second of two free throws with 15:07 left.
A minute later, Green drove through the lane to score a basket, which got the Lord Jeffs rolling. Those were the first two points of a 15-4 run that turned a 3-point Eph lead into an eight-point lead for Amherst.
Williams stemmed the tide and used a 9-0 run to take a 25-24 lead after Wohl made two free throws. Killian responded by scoring eight of his team's 11 points on a 11-0 run. The run put the Ephs down 35-25 and the Lord Jeffs went into the locker room with a 44-35 lead.
In the second half, Williams got down 65-48 with 10:52 remaining, and could have folded its tent. The Ephs did the opposite and came roaring back. A 3-point basket by Epley off a fast break with 6:08 to play cut Amherst's lead to 10. After Toomey hit a 3-ball of his own, Wohl and Mayer scored off back-to-back dunks, cutting the lead to 74-65.
Then, with 1:12 left, Wohl found Robinson for a 3-point hoop that put Williams down 78-71. The Ephs got no closer.
The Ephs made only 2 of 11 shots from beyond the 3-point arc in the second half and just 6 of 22 for the game.
"The biggest piece was our defense. I think we really took them out of their comfort zone," Amherst coach Dave Hixon said. "[Six of 22], that's good for a team that's shooting 42 percent [from 3-point range] and doing great stuff."
Amherst had a 14-9 advantage on the offensive glass and outrebounded the Ephs 40-31 for the game. The Lord Jeffs had 18 assists and only eight turnovers while Williams had 12 assists and nine turnovers.
After the game, Williams coach Mike Maker said that it's tough to play the defending NCAA Division III basketball champion, and that his team has much work to do.
"Until our basketball team learns to pay attention to detail and effectively communicate on the defensive end of the floor, and be willing to make the extra pass and keep the game simple offensively," he said, "we're not going to beat a really good team on the road."
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