The weather is not the only thing that has been unusually warm early this winter. The Williams men’s basketball team has used strong shooting and tight defense to scorch opponents on the way to a perfect 5-0 record to open the season. The latest Eph victims were the squads from Lasell and Colby-Sawyer Colleges in the Williams Invitational basketball tournament. The Ephs took out Colby-Sawyer 80-50 a day after destroying Lasell 101-47 to capture their second season-opening tournament.
Williams and Colby-Sawyer both entered Saturday’s championship game with identical 4-0 records. Though the Ephs had advanced to the Division III Final Four the previous two seasons, the Chargers were actually favored in some polls and were expected to give Williams its first major test of the season.
Colby-Sawyer came out fired up and ran to a 13-10 lead early in the game. The Ephs knew that they would have to respond quickly because of Colby-Sawyers’ high-scoring ability. In the first game of the invitational the Chargers beat Babson College 101-90.
Williams rebounded from the early deficit with relative ease as they went on an impressive 17-0 run keyed by three-point baskets by Sean Keenan ’00 and Jim Frew ’99. With only six minutes left in the half, the Ephs held a comfortable 27-13 lead over the shell-shocked Colby-Sawyer team.
In the second half Williams finished off the Chargers with another scoring explosion and virtually impenetrable defense. An 8-0 Eph run to begin the period upped the Ephs’ lead to 41-21 with about 17 minutes remaining in the game. The Chargers had nothing left and could not mount any sort of comeback.
Mike Holland ’99 paced the Eph’s with a double-double, finishing with a game-high 19 points and 15 rebounds. He was chosen as the tournament’s MVP. Matt Hunt ’99 knocked in 17 points on 8-14 shooting and Dan Dickens ’01 chipped in 13. Frew led the team with seven assists and added 11 points.
Though the Eph offense had a solid day of shooting, finishing at 53% from the field, it was Williams’ stifling defensive effort that secured victory. The Ephs pressed much of the game and forced the Chargers into numerous turnovers and terrible 32% field goal shooting. Guard Jim Sheehy ’00 applied relentless pressure at the point and forced Colby-Sawyer’s point guard to make many bad decisions.
Along with MVP Holland, Frew and Hunt were also selected for all-tournament distinction.
Co-captain Hunt said that the team was “pretty happy with what happened. We finally started to click as a team and got some good contributions from a variety of players.” He said that the Chargers “were pretty confident and looked good the night before.” However he noticed that the Ephs’ defensive intensity ruled the contest. “Defense is our best trait right now. We hadn’t been moving well and finding open shot opportunities in the first few games. With our offense improving, our defense will help us become a better team.”
Co-captain Frew shared many of Hunt’s sentiments. “There will be nights where you can’t put the ball in the hoop, but as long as you don’t make defensive errors you can stay in the game,” he said. “Coming in we wanted to pressure [Colby-Sawyer’s] ball-handlers, contest all shots, and out-rebound them. We wanted to concentrate on finishing off the possession.”