WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- The Williams College Ephs battled the Husson Eagles to an overtime victory tonight in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Ephs, who are hosting the first round at Chandler Gymnasium, won 86 to 83 behind ten points in the overtime period – seven of which came from James Wang. The Ephs move to 26-2 on the year while the Eagles finished their season at 21-7.
The Eagles started the game with a bang as they opened on a 7-0 run and held the Ephs to just one field goal in the first 9:24. At the 12:10 mark, Josh Jones knocked down a 3-pointer from the top right to push the Eagle lead to double digits. On the Ephs' ensuing possession, he stole the ball and took it the length of the court - giving Husson the 16-4 lead and forcing the Ephs to take their first timeout.
The Ephs found their offensive fire, though, when James Klemm swooshed a long ball from the top-of-the-key to cut the lead back to single digits with 10:36 to play. Hayden Rooke-Ley then hit a long 2-pointer from the top left with just over nine on the clock, and James Wang added a 3-ball from the top right to cut the lead to four. Jones responded with a step-back 2-pointer to reinforce the Eagle lead with 6:43 to go in the half, but the Ephs continued to fight. With 5:33 to play, one of the Ephs' highlights came as Wang inbounded the ball with an alleyoop pass to Troy Whittington, who finished with a dunk that did not disappoint. The play cut the Eagles' lead to two.
When the Ephs cut the lead to one after a Wang free throw, Luis Medina dribbled in and finished off the glass for the Eagles. Rooke-Ley hit two free throws in response and then stole the ball with 4:44 to play. On the resulting offensive possession, he got an offensive rebound and was fouled on his way up; he hit the two free throws to give the Ephs their first lead of the game at 25-24 with 4:27 to play. Just under a minute later, Brian Emerson had a beautiful put back off the glass to push the Eph lead to three.
Jones, who had 18 points in the first half, responded as he did the whole game and hit a falling down three to tie the game back up at 27. When Wang responded with a long 3-ball of his own a couple possessions later, and Taylor Epley swooshed a 3-pointer from the right corner, it looked like the Ephs might ride their lead into halftime. With just over a second to play, though, Jay Uhrin hit a step-back three from the top left to push the lead to 37-34 going into the break.
The second half started with more action from behind the arc from both teams. Eric Modica knocked one down from the left corner and Jones added yet another 3-ball from the top-of-the-key just over a minute-and-a-half in. Wang responded with one of his own for the Ephs before Daeshawn McMorrin hit a three with a hand in his face from the top right.
Wang hit a pull-up jumper from just behind the free throw line at the 16:43 mark to give the Ephs back the lead and on the following possession, swooshed one from well beyond the arc. Klemm followed on the next possession with a long ball from the same spot – giving the Ephs the 51-44 lead and forcing the Eagles to take their first timeout of the half.
After the Ephs pushed the lead to 13 behind a 3-pointer apiece from Epley and Emerson, it looked like they had the game in the bag. The Eagles, however, had other ideas. Brad Libby went baseline and finished a nice jumper with 12:31 to play, and Marc Zaharchuk was fouled on a put back 30 seconds later and made the resulting free throw. With 11:03 to play, McMorrin drove baseline and finished from the left side to cut the Eph lead to single digits. Modica then came up with a huge block with 9:43 on the clock; on the ensuing possession, he got an offensive rebound and put it back up; he then finished an and-one opportunity to cut the Eph lead to five.
With just over six left to play, Jones hit a pullback three with a hand in his face to cut the lead to two. After Wang hit a hoop, Nate Robertson sunk a 3-ball from the left corner to push the Eph lead back to seven. After four straight Jones free throws, Uhrin crossed over his defender and finished off the glass with 3:37 to play to pull within one. The two teams traded baskets until Husson took the three-point lead behind a hoop from Jones and another from Uhrin. With one minute to go in the half, Klemm took the ball to the basket and was fouled; he made the layup and the free throw to tie the game up at 76. When Husson forced an Eph shot clock violation with 3.8 to play, it looked like the Eagles might have their fairy tale ending as McMorrin got a good look at the basket. His launched 3-pointer, however, went off the front rim.
Said Coach Mike Maker about the Eagles' ability to get back in the game, "I thought we were fatigued a little bit and Nate Robertson, who plays a lot of minutes for us and does so many things was only out there 12 minutes and without a secondary ball handler, playmaker, and a good perimeter defender, it puts a lot of pressure on Troy and James."
With the lead tied at 76 all going into overtime, all of Chandler Gymnasium were on their feet as the Ephs won the jump. The Eagles, however, were the first on the board behind a Medina jump shot. Wang responded by taking the ball to the hoop and getting fouled; he hit the layup and the resulting free throw to give the Ephs the 79-78 lead. Klemm added a 3-ball from the right corner off a pass from Whittington inside to push the Eph lead to four. Modica made it a one-possession game off of a step back jumper, and Libby hit two free throws with 12.1 on the clock to pull within one. After Husson was forced to foul, Wang hit both free throws. When neither Jones nor Modica was able to knock down the 3-pointer with the clock winding down, the Ephs walked off the court and into the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Leading all scorers tonight was Jones with 32 points. He also added 14 rebounds to record a double double for the Eagles. Uhrin added another 16 for the Eagles, who shot 46.8% from the field on the night.
Said Husson Coach Warren Caruso about Jones's performance after the game, "I think Josh Jones is an All-American, 32-14, on a stage like that, just shows you what kind of a player he is."
Eph star Whittington had thoughts on Jones after the game as well: "He's one heckuva player… we saw on the film that he took some absurd shots, and they were not going in, and he took some absurd shots tonight and they went in. I think we got the wrong tape."
Coach Caruso was proud of his whole team's effort tonight though: "I could not be more proud of our guys. We knew they were going to make a run and we just wanted to hang around, and we did."
Added Jones after the game: "It's obvious, it's the tournament, so it's a dog fight – you've got to fight. It starts with everybody on the team, the bench, our families, and our fans."
Wang led the way for the Ephs with 30 points. Klemm was second with 12. The Ephs shot 47.2% this evening.
Said Wang after the game, "They were more scrappy than physical. They get their hands on the ball a lot; they rotate well… we needed to show more poise against a defense like that. We threw the ball away too much."
Said Coach Maker about tonight's action and tomorrow, "I didn't help our team today. I was outcoached today, but we survived, and we'll play a very competitive Becker team tomorrow…Husson gave us everything we could handle today and maybe more… I told my guys that they bailed me out today. Give Husson credit; they were ready to play from the start… Once we got going we played freely and played to win, and we have a lot of mental toughness… we'll respond to the challenge tomorrow."
The Ephs move on to play Becker tomorrow evening. Tip-off is 7:00 in Chandler Gymnasium.
GAMES NOTES: The Ephs are making their 12th appearance in NCAA Div. III Tournament and their second straight under Maker. Entering tonight's game, Maker was 4-1 in NCAA play and had an overall record of 72-13 (.847)… Wang's 30 points tonight brings him to 524 on the season. He is just the second Eph to net 500 in a season (he tallied 554 last year) more than once. Michael Nogelo '98 did it three times and is the Ephs' all-time leading scorer with 2,002 points. Wang is also 10th all-time in assists with 277.