Two straight losses put NCAA bid in Jeopardy

The Williams men’s basketball team ran the gamut of emotions this weekend. Unfortunately, not many of them were very pleasant. The team dropped consecutive home games to Connecticut College, 80-69, and Wesleyan, 85-72. Their hurt their chances of receiving a bid to the NCAA tournament.

One of the greatest ever played in Chandler? The first half of Friday’s game convinced many fans in attendance that this was the case. Connecticut entered the game with a spotless 20-0 record and the number1 ranking in the NABC national poll, while Williams came in with a strong 16-4 record and a history of toughness in big games.

Both teams came out fired up, favoring an up tempo style of play. Neither squad established a solid offense early as the score climbed slowly. Sean Keenan ’00 scored six points in the first five minutes, giving Williams a six point lead which lasted for about eight minutes. The Camels came back as their guards slashed to the hoop and passed the ball off effectively to outside shooters. Williams held it close as Mike Holland ’99 received several great entry passes underneath and converted easy layups.

With two minutes left on the clock, Connecticut went up by two points, and the Camels looked as if they might blow the game open. Connecticut had a possession to go up by four or five, but the Eph defense held and forced a turnover. At the other end, Matt Hunt ’99 nailed a three-pointer to put Williams up by one with under 30 seconds remaining. Williams’ fans finally made some noise after the bucket, and the Camels weren’t able to convert their final chance, leaving the score at 38-37 in favor of the Ephs at halftime.

The Ephmen definitely had the momentum going into the half, but Connecticut College was the team which came out with more energy to begin the second period. Connecticut took longer possessions and made key shots as the shot clock ran down. At the other end, the Ephs did a fine job on the offensive boards, but the team just couldn’t find its shooting touch. Connecticut spurted out to a lead and was up by six with 11:50 showing on the clock. Williams was in desperate need of a run, but each time the Ephs scored, the Camels answered at the other end. Dwayne Stallings, Conn’s leading scorer, came alive in the second half after being shut down in the first, sinking three huge three point baskets. Along with Stallings, the Camel’s fans went wild. Their three hundred fans cheered loudly, often drowning out the eight or nine hundred Williams fans present

Williams had a definite size advantage, yet the Ephs found it difficult to move the ball underneath as the game wore on. When Williams went to the post, Conn’s defense quickly moved to the ball forcing poor shots and bad passes outside. When Connecticut had the ball Mizan Ayers and Kareem Tatum did an excellent job of keeping the ball and feeding Stallings and Zach Smith from the outside.

Williams got within three points several times, but missed opportunities ensured a Camel win. As the game neared to an end, Connecticut College dominated from the free throw line. Williams managed only 69 percent free throw shooting, while Connecticut hit for 77 percent, including near-perfect shooting in the final few minutes when the Ephs were forced to foul. Hunt was 12 of 13 from the stripe, but the rest of the Ephmen struggled to convert their tries.

Williams was led in scoring by Hunt who had a game-high 26 points on 6 of 17 field goal shooting. Holland played an impressive game underneath the hoop, registering a double-double of 15 points and 13 boards. Keenan was the other Ephman in double figures, chipping in 12 points. Jim Frew ’99 notched only six points, but he pulled down 12 rebounds and had three assists. His 12 boards give him 500 for his career.

Smith led the balanced Connecticut College attack with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Stallings finished with 18. Ayers and Tatum also finished in double digits with 12 and 11, respectively. Ayers also dished off three assists.

A day after this heartbreaking loss, Williams faced Little Three rival Wesleyan, which was set on avenging an earlier 75-66 loss to the Ephs. Wesleyan came in with only a 13-8 record, but they were pumped up and improbably led the whole game to cruise to a 85-72 win.

Williams, possibly tired from the intense Connecticut College game, looked sluggish at times and had poor shot selection most of the afternoon. Williams shot only 38 percent from the field, and 3 of 16 from three point land. Wesleyan didn’t shoot incredibly well, either, but their domination of the glass allowed them to miss more attempts. The Cardinals held a 38-27 rebounding edge on the game.

Though Wesleyan led by only six or eight for most of the second half, Williams again couldn’t get the run that they needed down the stretch. Fouls sent the Cardinals to the free throw line where they sealed their win. The Ephs just didn’t have enough left in the game’s final minutes to steal the game from Wesleyan.

Frew scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Ephs. Frew also dished off five assists but committed eight turnovers. Hunt contributed 18 points, but he only sank four of his 17 field goal attempts. Holland was the third Ephman in double digits, finishing with 17 points. Holland grabbed eight rebounds as well, putting him over the 500 mark for his career.

Sean O’Brien was the high man for Wesleyan, ending the game with 18 points. Joe Griffin, Jones and Avery Esdaile all scored 14 points. Jones, who played a great all-around game, also hauled in 13 rebounds and passed off a team-high four assists.

The Ephs will host Hamilton this weekend in their final regular season game, Saturday at 3:00 in Chandler. Before the pair of losses the Ephs had a great chance of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Now the team must hope a win over Hamilton is enough, otherwise Williams will be sent to the ECAC tournament. The team faces the Continentals this Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

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