Men’s basketball opens NESCAC play 2-0

Men’s basketball (12-5, 2-0 in the NESCAC) made a strong showing this weekend by opening conference play with home court wins over Bates (8-7, 0-2 in the NESCAC) and Tufts (7-8, 0-2 in the NESCAC). On Friday, the men avenged a 25-point drubbing at the hands of Tufts last season by routing the Jumbos 96-56. The Ephs played well again the next day, defeating the Bobcats 76-61.

Fouling ultimately undid the Bobcats on Saturday as the Ephs netted 28 points from the charity stripe. Trailing 19-12 in the early going, Williams eventually caught fire 13 minutes into the first half. With just over seven minutes left in the period, Blake Schultz ’10 brought the Ephs to within one when he spun his way to the basket, drew a foul, made the shot and picked up the free throw. The play was a highlight in a 22-9 run that sent Williams into the break with a 35-28 lead.

Williams opened the second half on a 17-4 run, capped by a co-captain Kevin Snyder ’09 three-pointer to bring Williams to a 52-34 lead. Although Bates responded, the Bobcats were never able to come within 10, and ultimately headed home to Boston with a 76-61 loss.

Joe Geoghegan ’10 put up big numbers for the Ephs with a team-high 21 points and nine rebounds. Schultz and Snyder finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

“In the second half, we came out with more energy and emotion which fueled our defense and allowed us to get a series of stops that we needed to pull away,” co-captain Mike Kearney ’09 said. “On the offensive end, Joe had it going, so we just kept giving him the ball and let him go to work.”

Against Tufts the day before, Williams spread the scoring amongst 10 players. The men shot an astounding 59.6 percent from the floor, 57 percent from behind the three-point arc. In the first half, the Ephs hit 72 percent of their shots went a perfect seven-for-seven from three-point land for 56 points. Schultz scored 20 points in the first half alone while James Wang ’12 came off the bench early to contribute a staggering 18 points before the break.

In the second half, the Jumbos fared little better at the hands of an unstoppable Eph squad. Williams extended its 21-point lead from the first half when Schultz broke away for a dunk that gave his team an 80-50 advantage.

Tufts certainly didn’t help itself with an uninspired 41 percent shooting percentage and 17 turnovers. In comparison, Williams turned the ball over 10 times.

Other big scorers for Williams include Snyder and Alex Rubin ’10, who both chipped in 15 points. Geoghegan came away with a team-high nine rebounds. Schultz ended the game with 24 points, and Wang finished with 22 points. Both had four assists.

“It was great to see some guys that haven’t had big scoring games step up in that department against Tufts,” Snyder said. “Both James and Rubin were able to score effectively and take some of the scoring load off of me, Joe and Blake.”

With last weekend’s victories, Williams rebounded from consecutive losses to Hamilton and Amherst in non-conference matchups.

A 10-0 run early in the second half gave the Continentals a lead they would never relinquish, as they ultimately took the game 62-58. “After an emotional game against Amherst, we didn’t come out against Hamilton with any sense of urgency or passion,” Kearney said. “[Head] Coach [Mike Maker] had us prepared to play, but we came out flat – that is on us. It just can’t happen, and it won’t happen again.”

The Ephs knew they had their work cut out for them against their archrivals earlier this month. The Jeffs had only one loss on their record going into the game, primed for another successful season after finishing second in the nation last year and winning the NCAA title in 2007. Williams played Amherst tight, however, trading baskets for much of the game and leading 30-28 at the half before finally falling 65-60. The men will get a chance at redemption when they travel to Amherst on Feb. 13.

Snyder noted the difference in tempo between the team’s most recent victories and the earlier losses. “Coach Maker showed us game tape and it was obvious that we weren’t trusting the system,” Snyder said. “But this weekend we were much more patient, and nobody forced anything or tried to do too much, which is when we are at our best.”

Williams will hit the road this weekend for a Friday game against Wesleyan followed by a matchup against Conn. College on Saturday.