It had been a long time since the student-athletes at Williams College were on a basketball court together. Monday night, it showed.
“I thought we looked tired and looked like we hadn’t played basketball in two weeks. We had a lot of guys playing out there for the first time,” said Williams coach Kevin App.
The Ephs had been on a COVID-19 shutdown and hadn’t played or practiced in 16 days. That showed up on the court at Chandler Gymnasium, when Wesleyan came into town and left with a 97-52 victory.
“We played the game because we had to,” App said in a phone interview after the game. “The effort was as good as it could be, after a long, emotional, mentally and physically draining two weeks of not being together. This was the first time our team had been together in two weeks.
“For a team that’s close, that’s really draining. Not being able to play five-on-five basketball, it’s hard to simulate.”
Nate Karren, the team’s leading scorer who scored 25 points in Williams’ win at Wesleyan in December, and Spencer Spivy, were the two starters who were in street clothes. They were joined on the sidelines by Brandon Arnold, Evan Glatzer and Ryan Moon. That’s the Ephs’ starting center, point guard, backup center and two rotation guards on the bench.
Dalton native Brandon Roughley, a Williams first-year, had a career-best 18 points to lead the Ephs. He was the only player to score in double figures for Williams.
Four different Wesleyan players scored in double figures. That quartet was led by reigning NESCAC player of the week Jordan James, who had 22 points and seven rebounds. He was 10 for 11 from the floor. Sam Peek had 13, while Nicky Johnson and Gabe Ravetz had 11 each.
If Williams had played a full lineup, the starting unit would have been different because it was senior night. Starter Jovan Jones and reserves Marc Taylor, Dan Kacmarek and Michael Myers got starting nods, along with junior Cole Prowitt-Smith. The seniors all played a season-high number of minutes for a Williams team that only had 11 players in uniform.
“Mike, Mark, and Dan came back for a fifth year at Williams — they’ve actually graduated. We’ve told them on multiple occasions that this year would not be the same without the three of them,” App said before the game. “Jovan is just a joy to coach, and we’re going to do our best to make sure they have as much time out here playing with their friends as possible. As we said before the game, there couldn’t be four better examples of who you want as teammates, leaders, and people in the Williamstown community.”
Wesleyan improves to 19-3 and 7-1 in NESCAC. Williams falls to 14-2 and 4-2 in the league. The loss came hours after Williams moved up to 12th in the D3hoops.com Top 25.
The win creates the rare three-way tie in the Little Three. According to the Little Three records that are kept on the Wesleyan website, this is the first time that Williams, Wesleyan and Amherst all finished 2-2 in the round-robin since the 1977-78 season. It is also the first time in memory where no team won a home game.
Roughley scored his 18 points in 21 minutes of play, before fouling out. He was 7 for 12 from the field and had three assists.
“Brandon’s been great all year. He’s giving us that scoring punch off the bench,” the Eph coach said. “Tonight, we knew to have any chance, he had to step up and be aggressive, and we wanted to play through him. He showed his versatility for sure.”
The Cardinals got out to a quick 11-2 lead, hitting five of their first seven shots. Roughley helped stem the tied when he got inside for a hoop. On the next Williams possession, Roughley took the ball into the paint and kicked it out to Cole Prowitt-Smith for a 3-point shot. That made it 13-7 with just under five minutes gone.
Wesleyan responded with a 14-0 run to turn the game into a one-sided affair. When Jordan James completed a 3-point play with 10 minutes left, it was 27-7. When the halftime horn went off, it was 50-19.
The visitors were a torrid 22 for 39 from the floor, compared to Williams’ 8 for 25. Wesleyan had a 32-10 advantage with points in the paint and the Ephs were outrebounded 28-8 in the opening half.
The 45-point margin of victory was the biggest for Wesleyan over Williams in the long history of the rivalry.
It was the lowest scoring output for Williams since Jan. 13, 2012, when Wesleyan scored a 66-43 win on Jan. 13, 2012. It was the most points given up by a Williams team since Tufts scored 101 in a 101-89 win over the Ephs in a Feb. 16, 2006 NESCAC quarterfinal game.
App was asked if the five might be able to play this weekend at Tufts on Saturday and Bates on Sunday. He said that’s been a moving target.
“We didn’t know Cole was going be able to play today. He was able to be thrown in there. Hopefully, we’ll get back to practice this week and have a full squad for the weekend,” App said. “Every basketball season is a roller coaster. There’s highs and lows and you try and take it easy, and not get too high and too low. The COVID stuff has made the highs even higher and the lows even lower.
“When you have a team that you love, and you don’t get to see them for two weeks, it’s brutal. It stinks. I’m happy to have them all back in the gym together for the first time and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”