Though the Williams men’s basketball team didn’t play their best game of the season on Saturday afternoon, they executed when they had to and pulled off a 81-73 win over an inspired Bridgewater State squad in the finals of Williams’ own Purple and Gold tournament. With the win, Williams remains perfect on the season at 7-0, capturing their third tournament title in as many tries. Bridgewater State drops to 6-3 with the loss.
Bridgewater never trailed in the first half, as the Ephs shot a mere 37 percent from the field. Bridgewater’s defense was very active and pressured the ball the whole length of the court. However, in the long run the Ephs wore the Bears down and won the game from the foul line. Williams made 28 free throws, while Bridgewater only attempted 13, hitting six.
Matt Hunt ’99 led all scorers with 22 points and made Williams basketball history midway through the first half by becoming only the 18th Eph to reach the 1000 career points milestone.
Although they never appeared lost in their offense during the first half, the Ephs often rushed shots and lost rebounds to a smaller Bridgewater team. Early on Bridgewater State was able to penetrate the Williams defense and got several easy buckets from guard Mark Gonsalves and forward Joe Andrews.
Though the Ephs fought back several times to within one or two points, Bridgewater continued to convert their scoring opportunities and remained in the lead. With just under two minutes left in the half the Bears were still up by seven. Mike Holland ’99 then delivered two crucial free throws and a layup to cut the Bridgewater lead to three. As the clock counted down to under a minute, Andrew Conley ’01 stepped up and knocked in a huge three pointer to knot the score at 36 apiece going into halftime.
Knowing they were lucky to escape the first half with a tie, Williams came out strong in the second half and immediately stepped up their game.
Right out of the gates, Jim Sheehy ’00 hit a trey off of a Jim Frew ’99 assist. After a few more lead changes, a put-back by Manny Benjamin ’01 gave the Ephs the lead for good. Dan Dickens ’01 and Sean Keenan ’00 also contributed other key baskets in the second half.
As the game wound down, the Bridgewater players seemed to lose their composure, sloppily fouling the Ephmen and wasting possessions with bad shot selection. In contrast, the Williams players calmly hit their free throws down the stretch to win by eight.
Hunt scored his 22 on six of 17 shooting, including three of nine from behind the arc. Frew finished with 15 points and made all nine of his free throw attempts. He also led the Ephs with five assists and four steals.
Dickens had a tremendous game, producing a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Holland, playing on a sore ankle, had a solid game with 10 points and five rebounds.
James Parriott paced the Bears with 14 points on five of 12 shooting. Gonsalves, considered Bridgewater’s main offensive threat, was held to 13 points and fouled out midway through the second half. Andrews tallied 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
In the first round of the tournament Williams defeated the Scarlet Raiders of Rutgers-Newark by the score of 87-62. The Ephs went out to a quick 20-1 lead and held a comfortable lead all night. Frew led the team with 19 points, all in the first half. Dickens had 13, and Holland and Hunt both chipped in 10.
Frew was selected as the tournament MVP for his impressive performances. Named to the all-tournament team were Hunt, Dickens, Bridgewater’s Andrews, Rutgers’ Steve Ricciardi, and Southern Vermont’s Chris Davis.
On the game, co-captain Frew said, “It was a great weekend for us. We had been criticized for not scheduling top teams early in the season. They [Bridgewater] were a good test for us to see where we are.”
He noted that the Bears’ “triangle and two” defense caused the Ephs problems in the first half and commended Bridgewater on their “rugged and tough play.”
Frew also stated that the team definitely has a number of issues to work on, even though their season record is a perfect 7-0. “We need to sharpen our skills and step up our defensive intensity to prepare for the games ahead.”
Frew is alluding to the upcoming conference games in the rugged NESCAC. Connecticut College, Trinity and Hamilton all have strong programs this year, and, of course, rival Amherst can never be overlooked.
Williams next faces Mass College this Thursday at home. Tip-off is set for 7:30 P.M. Amherst invades Chandler Gym at 8:00 P.M.