Courtesy Williams Sports Information
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - In a physical rematch of a 76-61 Eph victory earlier in the season, the Williams men’s basketball team (17-8) defeated the Bobcats of Bates College (13-12) in the first round of the NESCAC Championship on Saturday, 87-78. The number three seeded Ephs will go on to face rival Amherst for the third time this year next weekend at Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinals at 4:00 p.m.
In the second half, the Bobcats seemed to have an answer every time Williams threatened to stretch the lead. During one period in the second half, the Ephs lengthened their lead to six or seven on five separate occasions only to see the Bobcats answer with a basket of their own to cut the lead back to within five. At one point Eph freshman James Wang seemed to have broken the cycle with a three-point play to put the Ephs up 56-48 and force a Bobcat timeout, but Bates emerged from the break with an offensive rebound and Ben Thayer hit a jumper to cut the lead back down to size.
Moments later Williams came out of a timeout and finally stretched the lead to double digits on a Harlan Dodson three-pointer from the corner. Finding Dodson for the open look in transition was Snyder as the Ephs began to push the pace. On Williams next possession Wang pushed the ball upcourt and found Snyder for a lay-up and the foul. A Wang free throw at 7:22 barely a minute later gave Williams their biggest lead of the night, 66-52, and capped a 10-2 Eph run.
As was the theme all night, though, Bates would answer and fast. After the free throw by Wang, Bobcat guard Marshall Hatch hit a deep three to spark a return-volley to the Eph run.
With just 1:56 remaining and the Ephs up 76-70, Bobcats guard Thayer somehow broke free for a wide open three which he drilled, right between the eyes to pull Bates within three, 76-73. It was the closest margin since the beginning of the second half when Jimmy O’Keefe tipped in a Bobcat miss to make it 37-34 in favor of the Ephs, and it ended a 21-10 Bates run since Williams had registered their biggest lead of the night at the 7:22 mark.
Bates newfound striking distance was short-lived, however, as after a Williams timeout, Eph leading scorer Schultz drove the lane on the left side for a hotly contested lay-up and some breathing room at 78-73.
On the other end of the floor Troy Whittington helped the Ephs make a hugely important defensive stop. The high-flying forward from Brooklyn held his ground in defending the 6’7” Sean Wirth in the post, forcing a missed shot and then grabbing the rebound. On the ensuing Williams possession Whittington was fouled and hit both clutch free throws to make it a three-possession game again at 80-73.
With time winding down Bates was forced to foul, but the Ephs took care of the ball and hit their free throws, holding on for an 87-78 victory.
Bobcats leading scorer Chris Wilson led the team with 12 points but scored only two in the second half. Wilson also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists, both team-highs. Ben Thayer added 11 with 9 coming in the second half, and forward Alex Gallant and guard Scott Place each added 10 points.
For the Ephs it was Schultz leading the charge with 21 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free throw line. Alex Rubin came off the bench for 20 points on an impressive 6 for 7 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line, while the captain Snyder had 14 points and a team-high 5 assists.
Williams out shot Bates 52% to 45% from the field and killed the Bobcats at the free throw line, burying 31 freebies to Bates’ nine. In pulling down 14 offensive rebounds, though, Bates was able to make up for the Ephs’ marksmanship for much of the game.