Men’s basketball (16-6, 4-4 in the NESCAC) suffered an overtime loss to Bowdoin last Saturday, falling 89-84 on the men’s senior night. The men pounded Colby on Friday for a 76-51 win to kick off their final home weekend of the regular season.
The victory came after a pair of difficult losses at the end of Winter Study: Top-ranked Middlebury defeated the men 80-79 on Jan. 28 after Amherst escaped with a 67-65 win on Jan. 25. Williams dismissed Hamilton 82-61 on Jan. 22 and dispatched Skidmore 76-59 on Jan. 19.
Bowdoin stormed to a 13-0 lead in Saturday’s game, forcing the men to burn a timeout four minutes in. Michael Mayer ’14 finally got the Ephs on the board with a free throw five minutes into the game. Bowdoin then reestablished its lead at 15-1 with a jumper with 14:53 to play. The men then broke an 11-0 run, capped by a three from Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14 to tighten the game to 15-12 with 12:43 left in the opening frame. James Klemm ’13 netted a pair of threes to tie the game at 20-20 with 8:27 left. Mayer then scored six straight points before Rooke-Ley gave the Ephs a 31-24 lead with just under five to play. Despite trading shots with Bowdoin for the remaining minutes, the men closed the half with a 38-34 lead.
After the break, Taylor Epley ’14 led the men to a 48-36 lead with a three-point jumper less than three minutes in. Nate Robertson ’14 and tri-captain Brian Emerson ’12 added threes of their own to build a 54-40 lead with 16:13 on the clock. The men’s offense then slowed, however, letting Bowdoin claw back into the game. The Polar Bears snapped off a 15-4 run to knot the game at 60-60 with 10:35 to play. Bowdoin continued scoring, establishing a 77-73 lead with just 1:49 left in the game after sinking a pair of free throws from a technical foul to Head Coach Mike Maker. Following a Bowdoin foul at 1:40, Robertson sunk two free throws; he then went back to the line, tying the game at 77-77 with 1:06 left. The Polar Bears retaliated with a layup to take a 79-77 lead, but Robertson responded with a score with 0:24 on the clock. The Ephs got the ball to tri-captain James Wang ’12 after a turnover, but he missed a last-second three-point attempt, sending the game to overtime.
After bursting into the five-minute overtime with layups from Mayer and Wang, the men missed on five straight three-point attempts. Bowdoin capitalized to escape with an 89-84 win.
Mayer turned in another stellar performance, leading the team with 18 points and seven boards. Emerson also grabbed seven boards. “Mike frees up the perimeter players and forces the defense to pay attention to him and defend him,” Wang said. “And with his length, he’s able to block shots and grab some rebounds for us.”
The men opened the weekend with a 76-51 win over Colby on Friday. Wang and Klemm turned in dominant performances, as the Ephs pushed to a 17-10 lead on the strength of a three from Wang with 14:19 left in the first. Williams took a 36-26 lead to the break.
In the second, Colby pulled within three points as Camel Connor O’Neil hit a three to put his team down 36-33, but Williams steadily rebuilt its lead. Epley made four shots from behind the arc in the half, and the Ephs dismissed the Camels 76-51.
Wang led the Ephs with a season-high 27 points. Emerson held down the men’s defense with 11 boards and two blocks.
Middlebury slipped past the men 80-79 on Jan. 28. The Ephs were down 38-33 after the first, but they mounted a second-half comeback to take the game to the wire. With seven seconds left, Wang made a layup to cut the Panthers’ lead to 80-79. The Ephs again turned to Wang with their final shot, but his three-point attempt clanged off the rim, giving the Panthers an 80-79 win.
Epley and Mayer terrorized top-ranked Middlebury, as both recorded career-high point totals. Epley had 26 points, and Mayer scored 23 points and collected a team-leading 12 boards.
The men took on Amherst in front of a packed crowd on Jan. 25. The Ephs and the Jeffs traded points in the opening minutes, but the Jeffs led 39-31 at the break. The men battled back, and though they did not lead in the second, Epley tied the game at 60-60 on a free throw with 1:09 remaining.
After a few more baskets from each side, the Ephs fouled Jeff Aaron Toomey with four seconds left. Toomey made both his free throws to give Amherst a 67-65 lead. The men got the ball to Wang for a last-second attempt, but he could not find the net with a jumper from behind the arc; Amherst escaped with a 67-65 win.
“In both games [against Middlebury and Amherst], there were five or six minutes where they took advantage of our mistakes,” Wang said. “We had to fight back to keep the game close. We need to limit the amount of time where we slump and aren’t sharp so that they can’t get huge leads.”
On Jan. 22, the men topped Hamilton 82-61. Wang led a strong offensive effort with 20 points. On Jan. 19, Williams conquered Skidmore 76-59. Robertson turned in 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The men will wrap up the regular season with a rematch at Amherst on Friday at 8 p.m. and a game against Trinity on Saturday at 4 p.m. “We’ll look to step up our defense,” Wang said. “We’re a talented team, and we’re looking forward to the challenge against Amherst.”
The men are currently tied with Bowdoin for sixth in the conference as they prepare for the NESCAC playoffs. “We feel like we’re right there,” Wang said. “We’re talented enough that we can beat anyone in the conference; we just have to execute and peak at the right time.”