Men’s basketball captures fifth straight win at Hockenbury Classic

No. 8 men’s basketball (6-1) notched its fifth straight victory last Sunday after dispatching Worcester State 70-52 in the Hockenbury Classic championship game. The men also defeated Purchase State 92-56 in the opening round of the classic on Saturday. The team began play after Thanksgiving break on Nov. 29 with a comeback victory over RPI, having started the season with victories over Southern Vermont, Wesleyan and MCLA and a loss to Salem State.

The men built up a sizeable first-half lead over Purchase State last Saturday in the first round of the Hockenbury Classic. The Ephs capitalized on the Panthers’ poor shooting to establish a 42-25 lead going into the break. The men limited Purchase State to an abysmal 25 percent shooting from the field in the half, while shooting at a 51.7 clip. The men sunk eight shots from behind the arc in the first half.

The Ephs continued to dominate in the second half, as Head Coach Mike Maker got 11 Ephs double-digit playing time. Tri-captain James Wang ’12 led the collaborative effort, netting 11 points in the half for a team-leading 18 in the game. Taylor Epley ’14 turned in a strong two-way performance, scoring 17 points and leading the Ephs with 10 boards. The men shot 50 percent in the game, holding Purchase State to 30 percent shooting.

“We’ve had balanced scoring this year,” Maker said. “We have one of the more balanced offenses we’ve had in three years, and that makes us more difficult to guard against.”

The victory over Purchase State secured the men a spot in the final against Worcester State on Sunday. Epley propelled the Ephs to an early lead, sinking a pair of threes en route to establishing a 17-9 Williams advantage with 12 minutes to play in the opening period. The Lancers then went on a 13-5 run to knot the game at 22-22, forcing the Ephs to take a team timeout. After Worcester State scored on a jumper, the men took control of the game, with James Klemm ’13 sinking a pair of free throws and a shot from beyond the arc. A pair of free throws from Epley sent the Ephs to the lockers up 36-26.

After the break, the Ephs got offensive contributions from multiple players to keep the Lancer defense guessing and steadily build their lead. The men capitalized on Worcester State turnovers to establish a 22-point lead with under four minutes to play. Even with a few missed shots and turnovers to close out the game, the Ephs held on for a 70-52 victory to win the classic.

“We’ve had too many turnovers,” Maker said. “As our decision-making and conditioning improves, that will make us even harder to defend.”

Epley topped the team with 16 points, and tri-captain Brian Emerson ’12 led the men with six boards. Four Ephs cracked double-digits in the game, with Klemm contributing 11 points, Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14 adding 11 and Michael Mayer ’14 snaring 12. Nate Robertson ’13 was named MVP of the Hockenbury Classic, netting three points, three assists and two rebounds against Worcester State and 13 points, five assists and two rebounds against Purchase State.

“Nate’s teammates have a great deal of confidence in him,” Maker said. “We’re a better team with him on the court.”

On Nov. 29, Williams battled back from a 42-38 halftime deficit to dispose of RPI by a final score of 91-84. The Ephs got off to a sloppy start, turning the ball over five times in the opening six minutes of the game and falling behind early. Williams eventually took the lead when Klemm sunk a three with just under 11 minutes to play in the half to put the men up 19-18. Epley led the men on a 7-2 run to establish a 26-20 lead with 9:24 in the half, but RPI responded with a pair of threes and reclaimed a 42-38 lead heading to the break.

After the break, Daniel Wohl ’15 carried the Ephs to a 56-56 tie with 12 minutes to play after scoring seven consecutive points. Rookie Parker Semin ’15 broke the tie with a layup, and the men maintained their slim lead heading to the final minutes of the game. The Ephs held off a late Engineer push, forcing two turnovers and capitalizing on free throws to secure a 91-84 win.

Klemm and Wohl led the men with 17 points, and Klemm also led the team with 10 rebounds. The Ephs shot 55.4 percent from the field, holding the Engineers to 37.8 percent shooting.

“Daniel [Wohl] has great instincts, and he’s a skilled basketball player,” Maker said. “He’s made significant contributions already, and we’re excited about his future.”

Before the break, the men defeated MCLA by a score of 84-59 on Nov. 27. Wohl led the men with 18 points, and Mayer had eight boards. Williams also topped Wesleyan 83-68 in non-conference play on Nov. 22. Klemm was the Ephs’ leading scorer with 21 points, and Epley had 12 rebounds. The men fell 83-69 to Salem State in the second game of the opening Williams Invitational on Nov. 19 after starting the season with an 87-58 victory over Southern Vermont on Nov. 18.

The men will host Keene State today at 7 p.m. before taking on Springfield at home on Saturday. Tipoff will be at 4 p.m.