Men’s basketball qualifies for NCAAs, finishes second in NESCAC tournament

Following an impressive run to the title game of the NESCAC tournament, men’s basketball (19–8, 5–5 in the NESCAC) was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The men earned an 81-65 victory over Tufts on Saturday but fell in the final to Middlebury, who used a commanding second-half run to seal an 84-62 victory, the following day.

On Saturday, the men punched their ticket to that NESCAC title game with an 81-65 upset victory over top seed Tufts. 

The men scored the game’s first five points and maintained a small lead for almost all of the first half. A quick three by  tri-captain Daniel Aronowitz ’17 and a transition dunk by Kyle Scadlock ’19 gave the Ephs an early 12-5 lead, but the Jumbos responded with eight unanswered points. Chris Galvin ’18 retook the lead with a layup, and Bobby Casey ’19 extended the margin back to four with a 3-pointer with 12:13 left in the half. 

The men were in the bonus early, as Tufts picked up its seventh foul with six minutes to go. Nevertheless, nine first-half turnovers prevented them from extending the lead.

Back-to-back buckets by Marcos Soto ’19 gave the men a 36-29 lead with two minutes to play, but two long balls from Tufts cut the margin back to one. Cole Teal ’18 banked in a three late, and the first half finished with a four-point Williams lead. 

The Ephs dominated the glass, collecting nine offensive boards and out-rebounding the Jumbos 23-12. All told, the teams remained quite even, both shooting close to 50 percent from the field and playing strong defense. 

The second half picked up largely where the first left off. The men held the lead, but Tufts kept the game close.

Long shots from Thomas Lapham and KJ Garrett then gave Tufts a 63-61 advantage, its first lead since the score was 13-12 just six minutes into the game. 

The Ephs felt the pressure, heaving threes that refused to fall. After shooting 5-11 from deep in the first half, they hit only two of their first 13 3-point attempts in the second. After Casey tied the game with a tough bucket down low, Scadlock and Garrett traded baskets, bringing it to 65-65 with 4:51 left. 

Aronowitz then kicked off the Ephs’ game-winning run with a pair of foul shots; Tufts would not score again. Tri-captain Mike Greenman ’17 followed with an open 3-pointer, his third of the game. Casey got a layup to fall, and Scadlock pushed the lead to double digits.

This drastic swing seemed to disorient the Jumbos. The top seed’s shots stopped falling, and its offensive attack seemed sloppy. With 1:18 to go, Tufts began intentionally fouling to buy time, but the men hit their free throws to ice the game. Foul shots ran the score up to 81-65 at the end.

Scadlock registered a double-double, registering game-high marks of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Greenman was one assist away from a double-double of his own, accompanying 14 points with a career-high nine assists. Aronowitz, Soto and Casey also scored in double digits for the Ephs. 

On Sunday afternoon, the men faced defending champion Middlebury, who defeated Trinity 76-60 in its semifinal contest.

The Ephs, just the second No. 6 seed to ever make the championship game, jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the first five minutes, making three of their first four 3-point tries. Middlebury guard Jake Brown, however, quickly sank back-to-back threes to cut the lead down to four. 

After the Panthers tied the game at 20, Scadlock took control, making some tough shots to secure a six-point Ephs’ lead. Scadlock was everywhere in the first half, completing a double-double before 14 minutes had elapsed. A three by Aronowitz extended the lead to 32-23 with eight minutes left in the half. 

The men, however, then went cold from the floor, failing to hit a field goal for the next six minutes as Middlebury inched back.

With 2:40 to play, the game was tied at 35 before James Heskett ’19 made a left-side three to put the men ahead once again. The teams traded misses for several possessions before Scadlock stole the ball at midcourt and finished with a fast-break slam. The teams went into their locker rooms with the score 40-36 in favor of the Ephs. 

In the second half, however, Middlebury came out of the gate with a vengeance. Matt St. Amour, the NESCAC’s leading scorer, who was held to only three points in the first half, scored eight straight points after the break. The Panthers scored 16 unanswered points in six minutes to take a 52-40 lead. The men finally got on the board with an Aronowitz free throw, but back-to-back Middlebury threes made it a 17-point game. 

Middlebury outscored the men 48-22 in the half. The Ephs made just five of their 25 shots in the half and two of 14 3-point attempts. Both teams sent in their reserves in the final minutes, and the score sat at 84-62 when the final buzzer sounded. With 24 points, Scadlock led the men for the second straight game and had a game-high 11 rebounds.   

Head Coach Kevin App characterized his team’s performance in the final as one of fatigue. “I am incredibly proud of the teams’ performance in the NESCAC tournament,” App said. “Their energy, enthusiasm and competitive spirit were exactly how we hope to represent Williams and our fans. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas in the second half against a very strong Middlebury team, but [I am] thrilled for the team to get that experience.”

Middlebury earned an automatic NCAA tournament bid. On Monday, the NCAA announced that the Ephs would receive an at-large bid. NESCAC foes Wesleyan, Tufts and Amherst will also compete at NCAAs.

“I’m very excited for this group that has had their hard work rewarded with an NCAA tournament bid,” App said. “I am just thrilled to be able to continue this season with this team and give them another opportunity to compete together.”

In the first round, the men will play Becker College on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at home in Chandler Gymnasium.