Men’s basketball rises to 5th in nation

Men’s basketball (14-1, 2-0 in the NESCAC) continued this season’s incredible play last weekend, opening against Tufts and Bates and moving up from no. 7 to no. 5 in the country. Since the holiday break, the Ephs have gone 6-1, suffering their only defeat of the season to no. 3 Randolph-Macon on Dec. 30 before rebounding to capture the Purple & Gold Invitational at home on Jan. 3 and 4. They also took down archrival Amherst in a thrilling matchup in Chandler on Jan. 9.

The men took control early against conference foe Bates on Saturday. The Ephs jumped out to an 18-9 lead over the Bobcats only eight minutes into the game and led by a safe margin of at least eight points throughout the remainder of the contest. They headed into the locker room at the half with a 42-30 lead. The Ephs overpowered the Bobcats, shooting 57 percent from the field in the first half, compared to the opponents’ 40 percent.

The team kicked its offense into high gear in the second half, shooting 66 percent from the field and making eight of 12 three-point field goals. The Eph defense also stepped up hugely, holding the Bobcats’ field goal shooting to a measly 31 percent. Though Bates finished the game with a slight 39-35 advantage in rebounds, Williams countered with six blocks for the night. Four Ephs posted double digit tallies for the game as co-captain Blake Schultz ’10, James Wang ’12, Alex Rubin ’10 and Troy Whittington ’11 scored 24, 19, 18 and 15 points respectively. Co-captain Joe Geoghegan ’10 also contributed to the sizeable victory with six points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Saturday’s victory came on the heels of a 91-55 thrashing of Tufts on Friday. The men jumped out to a 9-0 run as the game began and never looked back, leading 41-23 at halftime despite shooting an unusually low 46 percent from the field. Though not offensive powerhouses, the men were defensive stalwarts in the half, holding Tufts to only 35 percent shooting and creating 10 turnovers.

The second half saw a return to the offensive prowess that the Ephs have been known for this season, as the team scored 50 second-half points on the strength of a 65 percent field goal percentage. The team put forth an evenly balanced attack in which every player that saw the floor recorded at least one point, with Schultz leading the way with 26. Harlan Dodson ’11 followed suit as the only other Eph in the double digits with 11 points, including two threes. Accuracy was paramount as Dodson went 4-5 from the field on the game.

“One lesson that we will take from this weekend is how to maintain a high level of energy and intensity through the second game of the weekend,” Ethan Timmins-Schiffman ’10 said. “From this point on, most of our NESCAC games come on back-to-back days, which means that we have a quick turnaround from our Friday night game to our Saturday afternoon game.”

Going into the Jan. 9 game against Amherst at home, Williams ranked 11th in the country. The team did not disappoint its fans, as they fought to upset the 9th ranked Jeffs 72-69. Wang, Geoghegan and Whittington led the offensive charge in scoring 19, 16 and 11 points, respectively. Wang was named the NESCAC Player of the Week for the second time this season after averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the wins over Amherst and Colby-Sawyer.

“Obviously, it always feels great to beat our archrival,” Geoghegan pointed out. “This is actually the first time that this senior class has beaten them at Williams. It felt especially sweet to beat them in front of our home crowd, which has been so incredibly supportive of us this year.”

Ahead of Amherst, the men hosted one of their annual home tournaments as Winter Study began over Jan. 3-4. Williams trounced the University of Southern Maine 93-59 in the opening round. The following night the team let loose an offensive onslaught against the men from Colby-Sawyer, taking the championship by a score of 101-88. Schultz (19.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg) was named tournament MVP and Rubin (15 ppg, 73 percent shooting) was also named to the All-Tournament Team.

While the vast majority of Williams students were still enjoying some time off from school in December, the team was hard at work at the Randolph-Macon Christmas Classic in Virginia on Dec. 30. The men breezed past Elmira in the semifinals by a score of 85-64 before falling 79-74 in a hard-fought contest against the host school, which was ranked 4th in the nation at the time and climbed to no. 1 immediately following the victory.

Williams began a stretch of five straight road games last night with a matchup against New Paltz State last night, which they won 70-68. Next up for the team are NESCAC conference matchups against Little Three rival Wesleyan on Friday and Conn. College on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve won some big games, but have only been tested on the road a few times and are now entering the most difficult part of our regular season,” said Geoghegan. “We will need to stay focused and stay healthy in order to succeed in NESCAC play, especially on the road.”