Men’s basketball still perfect

The Williams College men’s basketball team played another fine week of basketball, traveling to upstate New York to defeat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) 63-54 on Tuesday night. On Saturday night in Chandler Gym, the Ephs broke the century mark in a 106-55 blowout of Lasell College. Williams moves to 4-0 on the season.

In a battle of unbeatens, Williams showed it is for real with its nine-point defeat of RPI. The Ephs played a very fundamentally sound game, holding the Red Hawks to just two free throws in the entire game, zero in the last twenty minutes of play.

The Ephs committed just nine fouls all day. Williams took a 34-28 lead into halftime on 5-of-8 shooting from behind the arc and shot 30 percent overall from the field on the first half. The Red Hawks played an aggressive brand of basketball, but the Ephs maintained the lead throughout the second half.

In the victory, forward Joe Weiss ’01 had a dazzling game, scoring 22 points and pulling in nine rebounds. Weiss nailed five three-pointers on the day. Late in the game, he defended the Red Hawks go-to man down low when Manny Benjamin ’01 fell into foul trouble.

Benjamin did not let the fouls affect him, and posted a double-double: 12 points and a game-high 11 boards. Tri-captain point guard Jim Sheehy ’00 was on the court for almost the entire game, helping to hold the Red Hawks down while dishing our four assists.

Fellow tri-captain Sean Keenan ’00 made his season debut on the night, contributing to the cause with five points, three assists and two rebounds while providing strong play on the defensive side of the ball. Keenan said on his return to Chandler Gym, “Shifting from football to basketball is a tough transition and considering that the team has been playing together all fall, I am a little behind. I am excited for the season, though, and glad to be back on the court and in a position where I can contribute.”

For RPI, only Alex Dowlin broke the double digit points barrier, with 22. Dowlin also helped the Red Hawk cause with a team-high eight rebounds. But, when it came to crunch time, neither Dowlin nor anyone else from RPI could break the Eph defense.

A few nights later, Williams had an easier time on the floor, dismantling Lasell College by 51 points. It was all Purple from the get-go. Williams got out of the gate with a 19-5 run in the first 6:30 in the half. Weiss had the hot hand early, scoring 13 of Williams’ initial 19 points. Despise missing junior forward Dan Dickens and first-year Tim Folan, the Eph offense was running on all cylinders. Williams shot 50 percent in the first half, 8-of-14 from three point range.

Lasell was held to 35 percent shooting. At half time, Williams had scored 54 points, one point shy of Lasell’s total output. The Lasers were down by 27 at half time. Leading the way was Weiss with an impressive 23 points in the first half. Andrew Conley ’01 was also strong in the first half, scoring 10 points. Sheehy was solid from the point, with six assists and seven points in the first 20 minutes of play.

The second half was more of the same. Early in the second half, coach Harry Sheehy opted to let his starters rest for another day. This provided the Eph bench with an opportunity to showcase its depth and strength.

Two Ephs who came off the bench, Dave Seward ’00 and Bobby Cappola ’03, scored in double digits. Everyone on the team saw playing time, and five scored in double digits.

Joe Weiss ended the day with 29 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists in just 28 minutes. Andrew Conley was second in scoring on the day with 13. Tri-captain Seward scored 12 in 10 minutes of action. Sheehy rounded out the Ephs in double-digits with 10 points. First-year Drew DeMuth led the team in rebounds with eight. Benjamin hauled in seven in the game.

The final numbers are daunting. Williams finished with a 44 to 26 advantage in rebounds, outshooting Lasell 51 percent to 37 percent. The Ephs also recorded 11 steals.

Keenan discussed the Ephs’ early success: “Considering the injuries that we have had thus far in the year and the relative youth of the team as a whole, we have gotten off to a great start. The key is to build on our momentum and to get better with every game.”

Going into the month-long recess between Saturday’s game and the next match after winterbreak, Keenan put Williams’ future outlook in perspective.

“This year’s team is fairly young and without a great deal of experience,” Keenan said. “As the year goes on and people get more of an opportunity to play, we are only going to improve. We have solid freshman and sophomore classes and good leadership from the juniors and seniors.

“This may not be one of the most talented Williams teams in recent history, but it certainly will be one of its hardest working and hopefully that will cancel out any mistakes we make early on. Every game we play will be competitive and we can’t take anyone lightly. It is going to be an exciting season.”

The Ephs play again tonight at home in an important game with Keene State. The game will begin at 8 p.m. Keene is off to a fast start, averaging 107 points a game and having only lost to D-I Dartmouth by 15. Weiss said that the team’s developing confidence will be critical to its success in such upcoming games.

“The team is off to a good start,” Weiss said. “Right now I think you could definitely say that we have played better each game. That’s important because we have a bunch of guys who don’t have that much game experience, be it freshmen or just guys who have been in the program for a few years but have not played that many big minutes, so I think getting through the first few games was really important.

“We need this confidence because as we move into the tougher part of the season, we won’t be able to win games if we are sitting around wondering whether or not we are any good.”