WILLIAMSTOWN, MA - No. 8 Williams men's basketball stretched its win streak to seven games this evening, as the team overcame visiting Springfield 68-57. Williams improved its record to 8-1 on the year, while Springfield fell to 6-3.
James Klemm and Taylor Epley led Williams with 18 points and 16 points, respectively, and Nate Robertson came back from an injury on Wednesday to pick up a game-high seven assists and added eight points of his own. James Wang joined Epley and Klemm in double figures with 10 points.
Alex Berthiaume scored 18 points for the Pride – all coming in the second half – and was the only Springfield player in double figures. Ryan Coburn picked up a game-high 10 boards for the Pride.
After shooting 64 percent from the field on Wednesday against Keene State, The Ephs shot 44.6 percent in the game while holding the Pride to 39.7 percent shooting.
"I thought we were clicking on all cylanders against Keene State – we got everyone involved, we had rhythm, and we had many more possessions," Williams head coach Mike Maker said. "That's how we like to play. Springfield is a half-court, physical, tough-minded team, and we played with less possessions tonight. I didnt think we were as much in rhythm as I would like.
"Having said that, we held an opponent once again below 40 percent shooting," he added. "Overall, we gotta be happy to be 8-1 at the break, considering all the obstacles we've had in November and December. We haven't had enough practices with our core guys that have been injured. The two guys that are conditioned and in rhythm – Epley and Kelmm – haven't been injured. I was very pleased to beat a good basketball team today."
The first half proved to be a defensive battle, as Williams and Springfield shot 36 percent and 30 percent from the field, respectively, while forcing seven turnovers each. Williams had jumped out to a 14-4 lead 6:15 into the game, forcing a Springfield timeout; Epley opened the scoring with a driving lay-up and a three, followed by consecutive threes from Epley, Wang, Klemm, and sophomore center Michael Mayer.
Coming out of the timeout, the Pride went into an extended 2-3 zone to put greater pressure on the Ephs, and initially had great success: Williams didn't make a fieldgoal over the next four minutes, as springfield went on a 9-1 run, with four different members of the Pride scoring in the run. Two threes from Klemm and a stop stymied the run, making the score 21-13 with 9:02 to play. A three from Rooke-Ley with 6:42 to play made the score 24-13, and a break-away dunk from Daniel Wohl off of a Pride turnover with 3:58 to play pushed the Ephs' lead to 13, 26-13. Springfield went on a 7-3 run to end the half behind four points from Coburn, and the teams went into the break with the Ephs up 29-20.
"I thought it was a good move by them, going to the zone," Maker said. "We were getting what we wanted, and when they changed defenses and we didn't respond favorably – we stopped moving the basketball like we did against the man."
Both teams hit 10 field goals in the half, but the Ephs outpaced the Pride from behind the arc, going 7-18 from three compared to 1-10 shooting for the visitors. Epley and Klemm led the way for the Ephs in the half with eight and nine points, respectively, while no member of the Pride managed over five points in the half.
Williams came out of the break with force, going on an 8-3 run, making the score 37-23 behind threes from Klemm and Epley and a driving bucket from Robertson on the left baseline. Six points from Berthiaume and five from Evan Kristner for Springfield led the Pride back on a 15-6 run, cutting the Eph lead to five, 43-38, with 12:08 to play.
Springfield continued to pressure as the half went on, as the Pride kept the Ephs' lead to at most three possesions for the following seven minutes, and a floater from Berthiaume cut Williams' lead to four, 55-51, with 5:30 to play. It was as close as the Pride would come the rest of the game, as Robertson scored on a back-door cut and had three assists down the stretch to help the Ephs pull away, stretching their lead to as many as 14 points before walking away with the 68-57 win.
"We went with veteran guys down the stretch," Maker said. "I thought we had the discipline to get stops when we needed them, and then we had the poise on the offensive end to get a few easy ones late."
"I think a lot of the credit goes to Springfield," he added. "They are very well coached, and they're a very good team, and they're defensively stingy. I thought we took some challenged shots at times when we didn't need to instead of moving the basketball and getting an open one, an uncontested one."
Notably, the Ephs rebounded the ball well for the second consecutive game. After allowing a Keene State team that averages 18 offensive rebounds a game to eight, Williams kept Springfield to six offensive boards and picked up a +5 rebounding margin, 37-32.
"Rebounding has been an emphasis of ours," Maker said. "Listen, the way we choose to play with a lot of three point shooters, we're undersized – we basically play with four guards most of the time. It always going to be a challenge for us on the glass ... We've met that challenge this week against two tough minded athletic teams, I am very pleased with that."
Springfield will next face Conn. College on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Williams has an 18 day lay-off and will face Ohio Northern on Dec. 28 at the Coach Connor Classic, hosted by Thomas More College.