Men’s basketball stays perfect in early going

Co-captain Blake Schultz '10 aggressively fights for a loose-ball in Saturday's 111-74 win over Vassar.
Co-captain Blake Schultz ’10 aggressively fights for a loose-ball in Saturday’s 111-74 win over Vassar.

Men’s basketball (6-0) continued its incredible start to the season by trouncing Vassar last Saturday at home by a score of 111-74. The win marked the third time this season that the Ephs passed the 100-point mark in scoring and the fourth time that they defeated their opponents by more than 20 points.

On Saturday night, the Ephs displayed their depth in a balanced attack against the Brewers, as 17 different Ephs scored in the game. Blake Schultz ’10 led the way with a scintillating, career-high 34 points. In only 19 minutes on the court, Schultz knocked down an astonishing eight three-pointers in 10 attempts in addition to nabbing three other buckets and going four-for-five from the foul line. He now leads the team and the NESCAC in scoring, averaging 23.8 points per game.

Schultz ripped open the game with 12 points in the first five minutes, contributing to a 15-2 lead for Williams. Vassar responded with more assertive defensive pressure as the Brewers picked up in the full court, but the Ephs found a way to remain level-headed. The team took advantage of the fact that the press afforded them the chance to run a more fast-paced offense, as the Vassar press led to many open looks from beyond the arc and easy lay-ups. At the half, Williams led 59-23 and had established a firm grip on the game. Schultz had 24 points in the half to outscore the Brewers.

As impressive as the Williams offense looked in the early goings, Head Coach Mike Maker was more proud of the defensive effort his players put forth. The Ephs held the Brewers to a mere 30 percent shooting while giving up the fewest points in any half yet this season.

“We played very solid defense in the first half,” co-captain Joe Geoghegan ’10 said. “Though we are getting better, we are still giving up too many easy shots and too many points to our opponents. We need to improve our on-ball defending. We are not the quickest team in the country, but we have other skills that we can exploit to improve our individual defense.”

Although the team got off to a rough start in the second half as Vassar opened with a 13-7 run, play leveled out, and the game turned into a bit of a shootout. The Ephs shot a stunning 64 percent from the field in the half but only managed to hold the Brewers in this half to 53 percent from the field, giving up 51 points while scoring 52. The men, however, did continue to dominate the boards, finishing with a team total of 46 rebounds to Vassar’s total of 24.

“Our depth has been huge for us so far,” said Geoghegan. “We will really be thankful for it in January and February as the games begin to pile up and the wear and tear catches up with us. Everyone on the team knows that on any given night, we have eight or nine guys that can score in double digits. It is a great luxury to be able to rest key players and not sacrifice anything on the court.”

The men have found great success in the first few weeks of the season as they continue to settle into second-year head coach Maker’s system. The team defeated NESCAC foe Wesleyan on Nov. 24 in an offensive shootout by a score of 106-91 and then stayed sharp over break, returning with an 83-62 win across town against MCLA on Nov. 29. Three days later, the Ephs continued their hot streak with a 100-71 victory in the Chandler Gymnasium over the Vikings of Salem State.

The Ephs have relied equally on hot shooting from both inside and outside the arc and tough, tight defense to carry them through these contests. Schultz again led the offensive charge recording 32, 11, and 27 points in the three respective games and recorded his 1,000th career point early on in the game against Salem State. Geoghegan, Harlan Dodson ’11, Troy Whittington ’11 and James Wang ’12 added to the offensive potency and depth of the squad with double-digit point tallies in the games. Additionally, Wang was named the Co-NESCAC player of the week on Nov. 30 for his efforts that week against Wesleyan and MCLA while Schultz was awarded this honor for last week’s games.

“I think the depth of our team and our team-first attitude have been a huge part of our success,” said Schultz. “If you watch the guys on the bench cheering and encouraging everyone during the game, then you will really get a glimpse of this. Everyone’s goal everyday in practice and in games is to make the team better, and this is why we have played so well this early in the season.”

The team played Framingham State last night at home, but the results came in too late to publish. Next up for the Ephs is a match-up against Springfield (2-5) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Chandler Gymnasium. This will be the last contest before the team takes an extended break for finals and the holidays before returning to action in the final days of December.