Saturday night, Williams renewed its hallowed rivalry with the Lord Jeffs in Amherst’s LeFrak Gymnasium. Though the Ephs men’s basketball squad was coming into the matchup with some momentum—soundly defeating Nyack College for the Purple and Gold Classic championship—Amherst, which defeated the Ephmen twice last season and which had not lost to the Ephs in LeFrak in three years, used a 15-0 run midway through the second half to blow past the Ephmen 72-54. The Ephs record fell to 7-2 on the season while Amherst improved to 8-3.
The first half saw aggressive, even play on both sides of the ball. Williams kept the game close with great shooting at 50 percent and excellent defense led by Sean Keenan ’00, who held Amherst’s leading scorer, Erik Kelley, scoreless in the first half. On offense, the Ephs’ post players, who figured to be the team’s top scorers, had difficulty scoring many hoops under the basket but the team moved the ball patiently and created quality outside shots. Forward Joe Weiss ’01 went to his outside game and contributed a trio of three-pointers to lead Williams in scoring at the half.
Amherst, which is regarded as a strong perimeter team, outrebounded the Ephs in the half but struggled to take advantage of its quick outside threats. Senior forward Chris Smith paced the Lord Jeffs in scoring at the intermission with 14 points. As the Jeffs took a 35-31 lead into the half, neither team had well utilized its strengths, and the second period appeared to be wide open.
Williams came strong out of the gate in the second half, going inside effectively. Weiss and Manny Benjamin ’01 rebounded well and helped the Ephs knot the score at 40 with fifteen minutes to play.
Unfortunately for Williams, Amherst rebuffed the Ephs, putting together a 15-0 backbreaking run. As the Jeffs collectively found their shooting touch and ran the floor well, Williams went cold on offense. The Ephs didn’t score for more than seven minutes and turned the ball over on seven of 10 possessions during the stretch.
After the run, Williams looked out of sync on offense and was unable to get back into the game against the pumped-up Amherst defense. The Ephs’ 54-point output was the team’s lowest since 1996, and it was also the fewest allowed by the Jeffs since 1997.
Williams managed only 32 percent shooting from the field in the second half, while Amherst stayed consistent through the entire affair, connecting on 51 percent of its field goals. Amherst was up by as much as 22 points before the final whistle blew.
Weiss led Williams in scoring with 14 points. Benjamin, who played a spirited game underneath, scored 10 and hauled in 11 rebounds for Williams. Andrew Conley ’01 added eight points and dished out four assists. For Amherst, Smith was the leading scorer in the game with 18 points. Erik Kelly scored 12 points, all in the second half, including nine during the 15-0 run. Brian Daoust chipped in 12 for the Jeff cause.
The loss will affect the Little Three standings but does not count towards NESCAC play. Amherst comes up to Williamstown on Feb. 4 for the conference showdown. The victory was Amherst’s third straight triumph over Williams, but only the sixth in the last 21 matches. In the overall series, Williams still leads Amherst 103-69.
Williams will be back in action on Tuesday night as they travel to Clinton, NY to take on the Continentals of Hamilton College. The Ephs’ first conference game of the year is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.