Adversity hit the Williams College men’s basketball team on Saturday. The question is where they go from here.
The 17th-ranked Ephs trailed by a point at halftime to Little Three rival Amherst, but gave up nine straight points to open the second half, as the Mammoths held off the home team 73-65, at Chandler Gym in Williamstown.
“For this group, it’s their first time going through a loss, so we’ll see how they handle that,” Williams coach Kevin App said. “Hopefully, they’ll handle it just like they handle it with the wins.”
Williams falls to 10-1 and 1-1 in NESCAC play. Amherst is now 9-3 and 1-1 in the conference.
Grant Robinson, one of three senior starters for Amherst, had a game-high 27 points. He was 5 for 11 from the floor and an incredible 14 for 14 from the foul line. That’s compared to Williams going 4 for 7 from the line — as a team.
It was not a disparity of officiating as much as it was inopportune fouling. Six times, Williams defenders fouled Amherst shooters in the act. Those shooters did not get to complete 3-point plays. Three other times, the Ephs fouled 3-point shooters, and Mammoth shooters made all nine free throws. Twice, Robinson was fouled in the act from downtown, and he was perfect.
“We fouled a bunch of jump shooters,” App said. “I think we were trying to get everything back in one play instead of playing solid principles like we have most games. A lot of their free throws were [by] jump shooters and not at the rim. That [was] kind of the emotion of wanting to be perfect and wanting to beat Amherst.”
There were four ties and three lead changes in a first half where Williams never led by more than five points. That came when Nate Karren, who led Williams with 19 points, hit one off the window with 6:16 to go, to make the score 24-19. Instead of extending the lead, Williams’ Cole Prowitt-Smith fouled Robinson, who made all three foul shots, cutting the Eph lead to a pair.
When Alex Stoddard drove to the hoop for two with 5:47 left, it was 26-22. The Mammoths answered with eight unanswered points and never trailed again.
A low block hoop by Dalton’s Brandon Roughley tied the score at 30. Robinson was fouled by Jovan Jones in the act, made both free throws, and Amherst went into the locker room with a lead. It was 32-31 at the break.
In Friday night’s win over Hamilton, the Ephs came out for the second half and proceeded to go on a 15-2 run to take a lead they would not relinquish. Obviously, Williams would have liked to have done that again. Instead, it was first-year coach Marlon Sears’ team that did it.
Amherst scored the first nine points, including back-to-back, rim-rocking dunks by 6-foot-10 first-year Will Scherer. Three minutes into the half, Amherst had a 41-31 lead.
Williams did cut the lead to four points midway through the half and then with 2:04 left after Roughley backed down Dan Shalakman to score a big hoop and make it 64-60. It was as close as the Ephs got.
Spencer Spivy had 14 points for Williams and Prowitt-Smith had 11. Karren fouled out with 44 seconds left.
Porter, who had 14 in the win over Hamilton, was held to three points in 18 minutes. The sharpshooter was 1 for 2 from 3-point range, as the Mammoths did a good job limiting his looks.
It was a bit of a Berkshire battle, as Williams’ Roughley was on the court with Amherst’s Noah Helmke. Helmke, from Great Barrington, started at Monument but finished up at Berkshire School along with Mammoths teammate Canin Reynolds. Helmke had five points and three rebounds, while Roughley scored eight and had two boards. Reynolds had six points for Amherst.
“We learned some things [Saturday], but we have to get back to practicing,” App said. “We practiced, I think, six times since Dec. 10, and haven’t had everybody in the gym together in that time. It’ll hopefully be a nice week to get crisp, get sharp, get some conditioning in and go from there.”