WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The Williams College men's basketball team heads to Medford this weekend in a quest for its 5th New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship.
Step one of attaining that goal is Saturday at 2 p.m. as the sixth-seeded Ephs (18-7) take on top-seeded Tufts University (20-5) in the first of two conference semifinals at Cousens Gymnasium.
The Jumbos secured the top seed for the first time in program history behind solid rebounding and offensive output this season. Tufts ranks second in the league in rebounding (43.6 per game)and is averaging 83.7 points per game, good for third in the NESCAC. A victory over the Ephs would propel the Jumbos into the championship game for the first time since 2006 and mark just the second championship appearance in program history.
Williams holds a 4-2 advantage over Tufts in the six meetings between the two teams in the postseason. The two squads last met in the semifinals in 2003 with the Ephs slipping past the Jumbos 64-63 in a game at Amherst. Tufts defeated Williams, 77-71, on its home floor in the 2016 quarterfinals in their last postseason meeting. This season, Tufts handed Williams a 93-68 loss at Cousens Gymnasium on February 10.
"Any time you're still playing at this time of year, it's special," Ephs' head coach Kevin App said. "I think over the last three weeks, our guys have discovered that when we play care-free and with enthusiasm, we're tough to beat. We're looking forward to the challenge Tufts provides."
Williams is the semifinals for the first time in three years after upsetting No. 3 Amherst, 76-69, on Saturday. The Ephs out scored Amherst, 45-39, in the second half and held off a late rally by the Purple & White to pull out the quarterfinal win Saturday.
Senior Daniel Aronowitz scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Ephs. The game was tightly contested in the first half with neither team able to establish a lead of more than six points. Midway through the second stanza sophomore Kyle Scadlock ignited a 13-0 run that allowed the Ephs to build a 60-43 advantage. Amherst pulled within seven with 1:29 remaining, but that would be as close as the Purple & White could get.
Aronowitz ranks fourth in the league in scoring (17.5 ppg) and leads the Ephs in rebounding (6.1 rpg) and steals (1.4 stlpg). Scadlock is chipping in 11.8 points per game and is collecting 6.0 rebounds per game.
Tufts used a strong second half, out scoring Hamilton, 50-34, to earn an 81-63 quarterfinal victory on Saturday. Junior Vincent Pace (18 points) and senior Tarik Smith (Bronx, N.Y.) (17 points) combined for 35 points to lead the Jumbos. Hamilton trailed by five with just over six minutes to play, but Tufts used a 10-0 run to open up a double-digit lead to earn its sixth win in NESCAC Championship play and advance to the semifinals for the second straight season. The Jumbos dominated the key, finishing with a 31-10 advantage in points in the paint. Pace and Smith are the leading scorers for Tufts, averaging 13.3 and 13.0 points per game, respectively. Despite being a guard, Pace ranks among the team leaders in rebounding (6.0 rpg), while Smith is handing out a team-high 3.5 assists per game.