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November 18, 2011

Men's hoops tops Southern Vermont 87-58 in season opener

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Williams men's basketball started the season off today with an 87-58 victory over Southern Vermont College (SVC) in the Williams Invitational. The game started off as a back-and-forth contest, but the Ephs slowly pulled away as the game went on. Williams is now 1-0 on the season, while SVC fell to 1-1.

Williams played the game without junior Nate Robertson and sophomore Hayden Rooke-Ley, two key contributor's to last year's run to the Final Four.

Sophomore Michael Mayer and senior pre-season All-American James Wang led the way for the Ephs with 18 points each, on 8-10 and 5-6 shooting, respectively. Mayer also finished the game with nine rebounds, second behind freshman guard Dan Wohl, who pulled down 10. Meanwhile, Taeshon Johnson led the way for SVC, scoring 25 points and pulling down 13 boards, and Avery Mitchell chipped in 14 points.

The game was tight at its outset. At the 11:34 mark, the Ephs were up 15-12, led by sophomore John Weinheimer, who scored six points in the game's opening minutes on three drives to the basket. The Ephs did not start to pull away until the closing minutes of the half. Johnson hit a jumper to make the score 30-26 in favor of Williams with 2:37 to play. Junior James Klemm then hit a step-back three from the left corner to put the Ephs up seven with 2:15 to play, and Mayer followed it up with a three from the top of the key with 1:51 to play to put the Ephs up 36-26. Then, in the final possession of the half and the score 37-29, Wang hit a three from 29 feet to put the Ephs up 40-29 headed into the half.

Williams shot 51 percent from the floor in the first half, hitting 36.4 percent of its threes and went 2-9 from the line. SVC, meanwhile, shot 34 percent from the field, 25 percent from three, and 60 percent from the line. 

Williams continued to extend its lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Wang led the way with nine points in the first 6:32, earning two trips to the line and making a lay-up on an in-and-out dribble drive that shook two SVC defenders before hitting a step-back three from the left elbow with 13:28 to play to make the score 53-36. Williams slowly but surely opened their lead with methodical play throughout the rest of the half. Junior Sean Hoffman punctuated the win with two emphatic dunks, first with 3:20 to play to make the score 77-48, and then again with 44 seconds to play to make the score 87-56. Southern Vermont scored a bucket in the game's final seconds, and Williams walked away with the 87-56 victory.

Williams shot 54 percent from the field and 4-10 from three. The Ephs also improved their free-throw shooting in the second half, going 17-18 from the line (94.4 percent). Southern Vermont shot 33.3 percent from the field in the half, hitting 41 percent of its threes (5-12).

Maker was pleased with the performance, particularly in the second half. "I thought we had good defensive discipline in the 2nd half," he said. "Our offense didn't flow, but considering that we were playing without Nate Robertson and Hayden Rooke-Ley, we had great offensive balance."

Klemm and Eph center Brian Emerson joined Wang and Mayer in double figures with 10 points each. 

There were downsides to Williams' performance, as the Ephs' assist-to-turnover ratio was a disappointing 10:13. "The assist-to-turnover ratio was not where it needs to be," Maker said. "We also did not have a lot of assists-per-basket scored. I'm not happy with that."

Williams takes on Salem State tomorrow at 3 p.m., while SVC takes on Potsdam State at 1 p.m. Both games will be played in Williamstown.

"Salem State is a traditional New England power," Maker said. "We like playing them. The back-to-back helps us prepare for NESCAC play. We have a lot of respect for them, and it's going to be a real challenge for us."

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