Men’s basketball (25-4, 9-1 in the NESCAC) battled to a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Div. III tournament last weekend. After polishing off Mitchell 81-66 on Friday, the men dusted Gordon 81-63 in the second round to advance deeper into the tournament.
Friday’s game opened with a bang, as tri-captain Michael Mayer ’14 wasted no time in putting up six straight points for Williams. Mitchell fought hard against a Williams team that came out of the gate ready to play, but the men hit crucial shots whenever Mitchell got too close, maintaining a steady lead in the first half. With five minutes to play in the period, the score was close at 31-27, but Duncan Robinson ’17 drilled a three-point jumper to keep the Ephs up. One minute later, tri-captain Taylor Epley ’14 followed with a long ball of his own, and the Ephs closed out the half up 41-35.
Daniel Wohl ’15 set the tone for the second half, opening up play with a three-pointer for the Ephs. Two minutes in, Mayer blocked a layup, scooped up the rebound and got the put back after a couple of missed shots by teammates. He was incredibly consistent for the Ephs the entire half, putting up 15 points in the second. The men stifled Mitchell on defense and were able to close out the second with little stress. The Ephs took the game 81-66.
Mayer was good for 25 points, shooting 11 for 16 on the night and lead the team with 15 boards and five blocks. The men shot 50.9 percent from the floor, while holding
Mitchell to 37.5-percent shooting on the night. Mitchell grabbed 43 rebounds, including 21 on the offensive glass while the men snatched 38 boards, with only 12 of those coming in the offenseive zone.
Gordon, who defeated Babson in Chandler Gym on Friday, was the men’s next competition in the tournament. Gordon opened the game strong and put together an impressive first half. The Scots scored five straight points to open the game, but Mike Greenman ’17 answered with a three to keep the game tight. A big three-pointer for the Scots at 11:00 put them up 24-16, but the Ephs kept pace with them and minimized the margin. Robinson made a couple of big baskets and knocked down his shots from the charity stripe, but the men were still down 38-31 at the break.
Greenman exploded to begin the second half, hitting three straight three-pointers to erase the men’s seven-point halftime deficit, energizing both the crowd and a
determined Eph squad. “Mike’s threes were huge and gave our team and the fans a huge burst of energy,” Mayer said. “I think we used that energy to compete harder on the defensive end which really changed the game around.” The men broke a 14-2 run to open the second, and five minutes in they were up 48-45. At 11:29 Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 hit a three to keep the men on top 55-47. The Ephs continued to extend their lead with efficient shooting and solid defense. Wohl put the game away for the men with a three at 4:49, pushing them ahead by a margin of 71-57. With several players in foul trouble in the second half, the distance enabled Head Coach Mike Maker to rotate out his starting five. With the game mostly decided, the men closed out the second round with an 81-63 win over Gordon and punched a ticket to the Sweet 16.
The men shared the ball well on offense on Saturday night, and Wohl led the team with 18 points.
All five starters had at least 10 points, and Mayer led the team with 11 rebounds. The Ephs shot 46.3 percent from the field, while the Scots managed 39.7-percent shooting. Gordon had a rough night at the line, shooting 55.6 percent on free throws to the men’s 76.9 percent. The men outscored Gordon by an incredible 25 points in the second half.
“I think anytime you play a team for the first time it takes a while to get used to playing them. We try to make slight tactical changes at halftime to give us an edge in the second half,” Mayer said. “Our coaching staff is excellent at doing that.”
The men will next play Albertus Magnus in the Sweet 16 on Friday at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virg.
“It’s never easy to win in the NCAA tournament, so to advance to the Sweet 16 is amazing,” tricaptain John Weinheimer ’14 said. “We just have to take it one game at a time. Obviously we would love to have been able to host this weekend, but we are excited about the opportunity to play against Albertus Magnus.”