Stunned by Bates, men’s hoops looks for 20th win

Some would say that men’s basketball has over-achieved this year, ranking 24th in the nation and establishing an impressive record without a single senior on the roster. Saturday afternoon the Ephs were given a sharp reminder about the value seniors can bring to the table.

On the strength of a combined 37 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from fourth-year stars Ed Walker and Alex Wilson, the Bobcats of Bates defeated Williams 87-83 in a game played in Lewiston, Maine.

The loss moves the Ephs’ record to 19-4 on the year and 6-2 in NESCAC play, and prevents the team from clinching what would have been their tenth consecutive season with 20 or more wins.

That 20th win was widely expected, as many onlookers regarded the contest as a “gimme” game – after all, the contest did showcase the leaders of the NESCAC taking on a Bates team that had yet to win a single conference match-up. Games are not, however, played on paper, and the Bobcats were only too pleased to be able to teach this lesson to the Ephs.

Williams was led in scoring by point guard Mike Crotty ’04, who scored 15 of his 18 points in a frenzied first-half shooting spree. Crotty sank five three-pointers in a tumultuous opening period that saw 18 lead changes and 11 ties before the score finally settled at 53-50. However, Williams never led by more than four points, and the failure to open up a significant lead came back to haunt the Ephs later.

The Bobcats managed to keep the game close by shooting even better than the Ephs in the first half, managing to go 56 percent from the floor against the normally stingy Williams defense, as compared to 51 percent for the Ephs. In fact, Williams had been forced to close the first period with a 10-2 run to establish the halftime advantage they enjoyed.

After the break it was a different story altogether, as the Ephs’ hot hand, Crotty, had cooled off considerably, managing to convert only a single basket in the second half. The team as a whole shot a poor 11-for-38 the rest of the way. On the other hand, the Bobcats had barely any fall-off at all, shooting an even 50 percent down the stretch.

Bates stormed out of the locker room at halftime, opening the period with a 9-2 run from which Williams was never able to recover. Failing to manage a field goal until the 13:12 mark in the second half, Williams was able to close the gap to one at the 11:33 mark, as forward Tucker Kain ’05 nailed a three-pointer. Walker, however, quickly answered back with two of his own for the Bobcats, who played tight defense down the stretch to close out their first win over Williams since the ’81-’82 season.

Forward Ben Coffin ’04 notched 11 points and nine rebounds for Williams, which also got 15 points and five boards out of co-captain Tim Folan ’03. The one area where the Ephs stood out was on the glass – Williams racked up a 45-29 rebounding advantage, boasting 21 on the offensive end, including five apiece from Coffin and co-captain Drew DeMuth ’03. The effectiveness of DeMuth, however, was limited, as the big man was only three-of-seven from the floor in only 27 foul-plagued minutes.

Wilson was one of four players in double figures for Bates, as his game-high 19 points were paired with nine rebounds. Walker finished four-of-four from three-point range, and fellow Bobcat Brian Gerrity had four long-range efforts of his own in tallying 15 points on the night. C.J. Neely added 13 points on five-of-eight shooting for Bates, adding two steals as well.

With the loss, Williams moves into an interesting situation at the NESCAC table, sitting currently in second position with a 6-2 record. The competition for the title comes in the form of Trinity and Bowdoin: Trinity is one spot ahead of the Ephs at 6-1, and Bowdoin one behind at 5-2. Williams, having already defeated the Bantams and lost to the Polar Bears, lost the opportunity to control the situation with the loss to Bates, and now must hope for a favorable scenario.

Ideally, Williams will finish with a victory in its final regular season contest against Middlebury, while each of the other teams will win one of their last two games – Trinity must either lose to Colby on Friday night or to Bowdoin on Saturday, while the Polar Bears, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Williams, must either lose to the Bantams or to Amherst, whom they play on Friday. In a perfect world, Williams and Trinity will both end up at 7-2, in which case the Ephs will win the conference and host the post-season tournament.

As a whole, however, the situation is far from perfect, a fact that has not escaped the notice of some of the team. Crotty, who finished with 18 points and seven assists against Bates, was disappointed with the loss, saying, “We had the opportunity to control our own destiny, but we gave it up with the loss. It could still happen, but we know we’re probably going to have to play somewhere else.”

There was little reason to think the Ephs would play so lackadaisically against Bates when the team took on Tufts the night before. Crotty scored 25 points with six three-pointers and seven assists in 39 minutes to lead Williams to an 85-69 victory at Tufts. The win was the fifth straight for the team; the loss dropped the Jumbos to 11-10 for the season.

Crotty had 14 points on the strength of four three-pointers in the first half as the Ephs took the lead for good early and led by nine, 48-39, at the break. A three-pointer by Folan gave Williams a 7-5 lead at 17:18 of the first half that they would keep for the rest of the game. Due to early foul trouble for Coffin, DeMuth and Folan, the Ephs were forced to turn to their bench. Michael Graham ’05 answered the call, providing 12 points and three rebounds.

Jumbo Mike McGlynn got hot in the second half and canned back-to-back threes on his way to 26 points, pulling the Jumbos to within nine at 61-52 with 13:53 on the clock. That’s as close as the game got the rest of the night.

Head coach Dave Paulsen attributed this success to “a good job defensively against a high-scoring team.” DeMuth added 18 points and nine rebounds while Folan finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. These efforts, along with Coffin’s 10 rebounds, allowed the Ephs to post a 53-36 rebounding advantage on the night. Williams also hit 11 threes in the game as compared to six for Tufts.

Earlier in the week, Folan connected on 10 of 19 field goals, including six from beyond the arc, to score 32 points to go along with 11 rebounds, and lead Williams past Springfield College 86-73. The loss moved Springfield to 14-7 on the year.

Williams came out of the gate swinging, and got off to a fast start behind play that Paulsen described as “beautiful.”

“The team moved the ball real well and played very unselfishly,” Paulsen added. This passing allowed the Ephs to pick apart the Springfield zone to get open three-point shots for Folan and Crotty. 47 percent shooting from beyond the arc allowed Williams to pull out to a 42-29 lead at the half.

The Ephs continued their hot play at the start of the second half and expanded the lead to over 20. With this sizable lead, Paulsen removed his starters from the game. However, Pride guard Jonathan Trant took advantage of this and led Springfield back into the game. Even when the starters returned, the Springfield run continued with six straight points
from freshman Glenn Pape to bring the even mark to within seven points.

Paulsen understood the letdown even though he wasn’t happy with it. “When our starters came out we thought the game was over, and when I brought them back in they were a little sluggish,” he said. Great defense by Chuck Abba ’04 on Pride leading scorer John Gleason, along with clutch shots from Crotty, who finished with 19 points and five assists, and Folan allowed the Ephs to hold on through the final minutes.