WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - No. 7 Williams men's basketball extended its win streak to three games tonight, as the Ephs came back from an 11-point second-half deficit on their home floor to defeat the RPI Engineers 91-84. Williams improved its record to 4-1 on the season, while RPI fell to 1-3.
Williams was led by James Klemm and first-year Daniel Wohl. Klemm hit five threes and picked up a double-double, scoring 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds; Wohl went 4-6 from the field and 9-11 from the line for 17 points while grabbing eight rebounds and handing out three assists. Nate Robertson, Taylor Epley and Michael Mayer joined Klemm and Wohl in double figures, with 12, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Robertson added a game high four assists.
"I think it's the second straight game Daniel [Wohl] has led us in scoring as a first-year," Williams head coach Mike Maker said. "He has a lot of ability. His contributions have been so meaningful. We are going to keep looking for those contributions, but it's a team game. We need other guys to make contributions as well."
Matthew Pooley paced the Engineers with 26 points, going 10-22 from the field and hitting five threes. Jamie Zajac and Nate Fiala both scored 12 for the visitors, while Redon Qello added 10. Matt Dixon led the way on the boards for the Engineers with six.
RPI started the game using a full-court press and a variety of half-court traps; the high-intensity defense was a huge factor throughout the half, and particularly in the early going. The Engineers jumped out to a 12-5 lead only 3:42 into the game after Poole scored five straight points, and the Ephs turned the ball over five times in the first six minutes. However, Williams slowly climbed back into the game, and with 10:59 to play in the half, the Ephs took a 19-18 lead when Klemm hit an open three in the left corner after Wohl broke the Engineers' trap at mid-court.
Williams then went on a 7-2 run and opened its biggest lead of the half on a driving layup from Taylor Epley with 9:24 to play that made the score 26-20. However, the Engineers would not let up the intensity, and retook the lead 31-30 with 6:04 to play after two consecutive threes from Fiala. RPI extended its lead as the half wore on and entered the break with a 42-38 lead.
Although Williams shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and went 9-12 from the line while holding RPI to 38 percent shooting and one free throw, the Engineers' pressure was the story of the half: They forced 13 turnovers on which they scored 19 points. RPI was also dangerous from behind the three-point line, as the Engineers went 9-23 from three in the first.
"I thought RPI controlled the game from the opening tip. I thought they were ready to play, and that they played with spirit and enthusaisam necessary at college level neccessary to be successful," Maker said.
RPI continued to attack Williams as the second half began, quickly opening up a 53-42 lead in the first 3:25 of the half. From there, the Ephs again slowly worked their way back into the game; this time, Wohl led the way. With the Engineers up 56-49, Wohl scored seven straight points for the Ephs capped by a dunk from the left baseline that made the score 56-55 with 12:18 to play and a free throw that tied the game 56-56 with 11:50 remaining.
The Ephs retook the lead, 60-58, after Parker Semin scored his first points of the season with 10:38 to play in the half on a break-away lay up. Williams would not give the lead back for the rest of the game, and they managed to stretch the margin to as many as nine points on a layup from Epley with 4:50 to play that made the score 73-64.
RPI kept battling, though, and managed to pull within two when Zajac hit a layup with 1:10 to play that made the score 84-82. The Ephs finished the game off, though, forcing two turnovers in final minute of the game and hitting their free throws to walk away with the 91-84 victory.
Williams finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line, while RPI shot 38 percent from the field but 39.5 percent from three (17-43). The Engineers' pressure in the second half was less effective than in the first, as they only mustered eight points off of eight turnovers.
"This second time in my tenure I did not have guys ready to play," Maker said. "I take responsibility for that. To my players credit they responded favorably. We still have a long to way go."
Williams will now prepare to take on Purchase State this Saturday at 8 p.m. in a tournament hosted by Norwich. RPI will face off with MCLA on Friday at 6 p.m.