Williams shows new side

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Tuesday March 16, 2010

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Williams College men's basketball coach Mike Maker is nothing if not consistent.

All season long, the Ephs have put points on the scoreboard like they were playing on a Play Station 3. That wasn't the case on Saturday night when Williams played Brandeis for the right to go to the NCAA Division III Final Four in Salem, Va.

"In the end [Brandeis] made it a slugfest and a street fight," Maker said after the Ephs beat the Judges 71-57 to reach the fifth Final Four in school history.

"We can win in many ways. We get a lot of credit for being cute offensively and shooting the three," he continued. "We can win by shooting the three, and by driving it and playing the tough defense."

Williams is advancing to Virginia where the Ephs will play Guilford College of Greensboro, N.C. in Friday's 5 p.m. tournament opener. Randolph-Macon, the only team to beat Williams (29-1) this year, will face Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the 7 p.m. nightcap.

The winners play Saturday at 1 p.m. The Saturday final will be televised by the CBS College Sports Network cable channel, which is found on TimeWarner Cable's digital sports package in Berkshire County.

How tough was the defense? Brandeis' Vytas Kriskus hit a jumper with 3:47 left in the second half to make the score 55-54. From that point, the visitors from Waltham were outscored 16-3 to win going away.

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"This was an intangible game," Maker said. "Somebody said it was sloppy. I don't think so at all. I thought it was two teams that had the will to win, that wanted to get to Salem. I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty."

It was anything but ugly. There were only 16 turnovers in 40 minutes and the Judges actually did a better job protecting the basketball as they forced 10 Williams turnovers and had five steals.

For teams going to a Final Four, winning pretty may not always be an option. Fortunately for the Ephs, they were able to adjust against Brandeis.

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Williams was up 35-32 at halftime, but it was a halftime result that Maker said he wasn't thrilled with. He wasn't unhappy with the lead, but wasn't happy with the fact that Brandeis had kept Williams from playing the up-tempo basketball fans inside Chandler Gym and throughout NESCAC had become accustomed to seeing.

"Early in the game, there wasn't a media timeout because we couldn't get a stop," the second-year Eph head coach said. "We would rather play in the 80s or 90s or even the century mark."

Schultz scored a game-high 29 points, shot 8 of 13 from the field and only attempted four from 3-point range (making three). He was a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul line. Wang had 18 points.

A look at the stat sheet shows it was an atypical Williams win. The Ephs did shoot 24 of 52 from the floor for 46.2 percent and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range. But in a second half where Williams outscored Brandeis by 11 points, the Ephs were only 1 for 3 from beyond the arc. They attempted only 13 treys in the game, making five.

"Every coach hangs his hat on something. We like to shoot open threes," Maker said, quickly adding that the long ball isn't the be all and end all of the Williams offense.

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"The three most important shots in basketball to us are lay-ups, open threes and getting to the free throw line."

The latter was a big factor in the win, as the Ephs were 18 for 21 from the foul line and 13 for 15 in the second half.

Lay-ups, many contested and in traffic, were the other big factor in the second half. Troy Whittington scored nine of his 14 points in the second half and was clutch going hard to the basket or taking short jumpers.

"We know that Joe [Geoghegan] and I, if need be, can step it up," Whittington said after the game. "We have great players. We have Blake [Schultz], we have James [Wang]. We can get gritty, we can get tough."

"[Brandeis] made it very difficult for us to run our offense," Maker said. "They ran us off the 3-point line. They have tough kids, they play in an unbelievable conference and they were well prepared.

"Their quickness and toughness bothered us on the 3-point line. We had to drive the ball and throw it inside," the Williams coach continued. "We had to win it with toughness and determination and spirit, and all that."

To reach Howard Herman:
(413) 496-6253.


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