Men’s basketball (24-1, 9-0 in the NESCAC) blew Bowdoin away in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC tournament on Saturday by a score of 82-62. The men entered the day as the top seed in the tournament and the second-ranked team in Div. III.
Despite these accolades, the Ephs started out poorly, allowing Polar Bear Will Hanley to nab two steals in the opening minutes. Hanley proved troublesome for the Ephs, hammering 11 points and collecting 18 rebounds in the game. Despite Hanley’s strong effort, the men quickly righted their course with a series of three-point field goals. Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14 and Jordan Mickens ’12 got the Ephs rolling with three-pointers, and tri-captains Harlan Dodson ’11 and James Wang ’12 followed with long shots of their own. Rookie Taylor Epley ’14 rounded out the set of three-point shots with one of his own to boost the Ephs to a 12-11 lead.
“We take what the defense gives us, and [Bowdoin] kept going under the screen and pounding the paint. That gave us the outside shot, and we’ll never shy away from a free shot,” tri-captain Troy Whittington ’11 said.
The streak forced Bowdoin to call its second team timeout to cool the men down, but Epley responded with a three-pointer following the timeout. Epley racked up an 11-point night. Bowdoin responded with a basket for three, but Williams increased its lead to 12 before Bowdoin used its third timeout of the game.
“Their rotation was tighter than ours. You could notice how tired they were late in the second half,” Whittington said. “Our depth definitely made a difference. It gave our coach the liberty to rotate and keep us fresh and keep making big plays.”
Whittington responded to the timeout forcefully, recording two blocks within two minutes to keep the Ephs on the offensive. At the close of the half, Wang led two consecutive full-court scoring plays to take the men to the lockers with a commanding 44-26 lead.
“The past couple of games when we’ve had a big lead at halftime, we tend to get relaxed and start the second half with the other team having a run,” Whittington said. “That run throws our lead out the window. We wanted to keep our foot on the gas and win the first five minutes of the half.”
The Polar Bears came on strong in the second half to cut the Ephs’ lead to 15. The men were unrelenting, however, as Dodson and Wang sunk shots from behind the arc to solidify their advantage.
Dodson finished with eight points and two rebounds, while Wang contributed 14 points and six rebounds to the win. Whittington added two statement dunks to the offense’s showcase: one with 14:53 left in the half on an alley-oop from Wang and the other a left-hand smash with six minutes to play. Whittington finished the game with a double-double, taking home 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The Ephs claimed the 82-62 victory on the strength of their defense: The Polar Bears struggled to shoot 35 percent on the game while the Ephs shot at a 53 percent clip.
With the win, Williams is set to take on fourth-seeded Trinity at home on Saturday in the second round of the NESCAC tournament. Tip-off will be at 2 p.m. in Chandler Gym.
Additional reporting by Taylor Halperin, staff writer