Men’s basketball (17-7, 5-5 in the NESCAC) closed out the regular season by overpowering Trinity for a 67-60 road win on Saturday. The conference victory followed a difficult 80-78 loss to Amherst on Friday that came down to the final seconds in a battle of NESCAC titans.
Trinity snapped up an early lead in Saturday’s game, going up 8-1 just four minutes in. Taylor Epley ’14 then snared an offensive board off a missed shot from tri-captain James Wang ’12 and sunk a three 4:40 into the first. He then connected with tri-captain Brian Emerson ’12 on an and-one layup to cut Trinity’s lead to 8-7. Michael Mayer ’14 then scored five consecutive points for the Ephs, giving them a 15-13 lead with 11 minutes on the clock in the first half. Trinity stayed in the game, however, clawing back to within one at 27-26 after a foul on Nate Robertson ’13 with four minutes left in the second. Emerson kept the Ephs on top with solid shooting from the line, sinking four straight free throws to send them to halftime with a slim 31-30 lead.
The Bantams opened the second half strong, breaking a 9-4 run to take a 39-35 lead less than five minutes into the second. Williams steadily worked back into the game, with Mayer sinking eight straight free throws en route to giving his team a 51-49 lead with 8:22 to play. Wang punctuated Mayer’s solid shooting with a three, padding Williams’ lead to 54-49 with less than eight left. The Bantams tightened the game to 62-60 with 0:45 remaining. Williams then forced Trinity to foul to regain possession, and the men sunk their free throws to walk off the court in their final regular season game with a 67-60 victory.
Mayer reeled off 21 points and snared seven boards in the contest, leading the men in both categories. Trinity outshot Williams, as the home team shot 42.1 percent to the men’s 33.3 percent. However, the Ephs shot 93.3 percent from the line, while the Bantams managed only 70.0 percent, earning only 10 free-throw opportunities to the Ephs’ 30.
“This past weekend, we played some of our best basketball of the season,” Emerson said. “We are looking to build on that this week in practice and be ready to play Saturday at Middlebury.”
On Friday, the men challenged rival Amherst. The opening minutes were hotly contested, with each team trading baskets until eight minutes in when the Jeffs sunk a three to go up 15-14. Jeff Aaron Toomey hit another three to give his team an 18-14 lead, but the Ephs would not go down quietly, as Wang sunk a three to tighten the game to 18-17 with 10:37 to play. A three from James Klemm ’13 gave the men a 39-35 lead, and after Wang swished a pair of free throws, Williams took a 41-36 lead to the lockers.
Returning from the break, the teams traded threes, but the Jeffs wrested a 57-55 lead with 13:59 left in the game. The score remained tight, and Klemm knotted the game at 61-61 with a layup halfway through the second. Amherst then scored eight straight points to build up a 69-61 advantage with less than seven minutes to play. Klemm and Wang got the men back in the game with back-to-back threes, and a layup from Emerson tied the teams at 71-71 with 3:29 on the clock. With 50 seconds left, Robertson stepped to the line and made good on a pair of free throws to tie the game at 76-76. The Jeffs then made a layup to take a 78-76 lead with 40 seconds left. Wang missed on a three, but Epley snagged the rebound. After a timeout, Emerson tied the game on a pick-and-roll, but Amherst regained possession with 13 seconds still on the clock. The Jeffs gave the ball to standout guard Toomey, who made a jumper with three seconds left. Wang attempted a last-second half-court shot, but his effort was not enough. Amherst claimed a heartbreaking 80-78 victory.
Wang led the Ephs with 17 points, and fellow senior Emerson had a standout game, netting 11 points and grabbing four boards. The men had five players score in double digits in the contest. “We have a very deep and balanced team this year, which is a great strength of ours,” Emerson said. “Opposing teams can’t just focus on stopping one person because someone else will step up and make a play.”
The Ephs struggled with their three-point shooting, sinking just 10 of 29 attempts. Williams managed 47.6-percent shooting from the field. “A lot of the open looks from three for Amherst came in transition or from offensive rebounds,” Emerson said. “If we can rebound the ball a little better as well as get back in transition a little better, we should be able to limit the number of open looks we give up.”
The men will next face Middlebury in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday. Tip-off will be at 3 p.m. in Vermont. Williams enters the tournament as the No. 7 seed.
“In our first game against Middlebury, we played really well for about 37 of the 40 minutes,” Emerson said. “So we are focused on putting together 40 great minutes on Saturday.”