Men’s basketball (21-1, 7-0 in the NESCAC) continued its winning streak with victories against Colby on Saturday, Bowdoin on Friday, Middlebury on Jan. 29, Skidmore on Jan. 24, Wesleyan on Jan. 22 and Conn. College on Jan. 21.
Despite playing on the road at Colby on Saturday, the Ephs defeated the Mules by a solid score of 79-50. Following an early lead, the men produced great performances with Brian Emerson ’12 scoring 12 points, tri-captain Troy Whittington ’11 netting 13 and tri-captain James Wang ’12 collecting a team-leading 23. Courtesy of notable performances by rookies Taylor Epley ’14 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14 and tri-captain Harlan Dodson ’11, the Ephs went to the locker rooms at halftime with a 30-17 lead. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t let up when we had the lead,” said Whittington, “and we kept our foot on the gas.”
On the strength of 10 three-pointers and 15 free throws, the Ephs managed 46.6 percent field goal shooting overall while their strong defense confined the Mules to 37.3 percent overall shooting en route to the win.
The men also emerged victorious on Friday against Bowdoin, triumphing 88-64. The Polar Bears stole the lead in the first half, but the Ephs pulled ahead in the second. The leading scorers for the Ephs were Wang with 19 points, Whittington with 17 points, Rooke-Ley with 14 points, James Klemm ’13 with 12 points and Emerson with 10. Whittington also managed eight rebounds, while Klemm, Rooke-Ley and Nate Robertson ’13 snatched up six each. The hard-fought victory arose from the Ephs’ stellar field goal shooting: The men worked at a 42.4 percent clip to down the Polar Bears.
The men faced another challenging opponent in Middlebury on Jan. 29. The game pitted two champion teams against each other to fight for the lead in the NESCAC. Both Middlebury and Williams were undefeated in the NESCAC this year heading into the match-up, but the Ephs came out on top. With Whittington, Klemm, Robertson and Emerson all tallying double-digit scores, the Ephs managed to pull ahead in the first half with a score of 39-30. Middlebury swiftly caught up, stealing the lead and then volleying with Williams throughout the second half. Using strategic timeouts and fighting until the very last second, Williams managed a slim 69-64 win. Although Middlebury entered the game as the top-ranked defensive team in the NESCAC, Williams tallied 52 percent field goal shooting and held Middlebury to 40 percent. Even though the Panthers and the Ephs have both taken the NESCAC titles over the last two years – Middlebury in 2009 and Williams in 2010 – the men demonstrated their potential to take home the conference title for a second year in a row.
“We got a lot of momentum,” said Whittington. “It was a good win for us. It was our first big basketball game since Amherst … it gave us a lot of confidence and momentum for the later games.”
Skidmore did not stand a chance against the men on Jan. 24. The Ephs competed hard from the get-go, securing a strong 48-30 lead in the first half and ending the game with an 84-61 lead. Impressive point totals from Whittington, who tallied 28, Wang, with 20 points, Epley, who finished the game with 12, and Klemm, who totaled 11, put the Ephs on their way to 49.2 percent field goal shooting, while the defense held the Thoroughbreds to 27 percent shooting.
Wang scored his 1000th career point en route to the team’s win over Wesleyan on Jan. 22. “That shows his gift for the game, and it gives us all that much confidence in him,” said Whittington. In spite of the Cardinals’ initial lead, the Ephs went to halftime with a four-point advantage and subsequently destroyed the Cardinals in the second half, finally winning by a commanding score of 82-63. Wang scored a game-high 21 points, while Whittington finished with a solid 13 points, Robertson tallied up 11 points and Emerson finished with 10. Overall, the team boasted a 49.1 percent field goal shooting on the game, while the Cardinals were held to just 42.9 percent shooting.
Conn. College posed no threat to the men on Jan. 21, as the men dominated in a 91-52 game. Notable performances included efforts from Whittington and Rooke-Ley, who scored into the double-digits within the first half of the game. Whittington recorded 14 total points, while Rooke-Ley took home 12 on the night. The unstoppable Eph offense shot 60 percent overall, while their defense held the Camels to just 31.6 percent shooting. Every Eph player on the court scored a basket in the decisive victory.
The team will continue its season with conference games at home against Trinity on Friday at 6 p.m. and against the rival hoops team from Amherst on Saturday at 2 p.m.