Ephs Suffer First Defeat of Season, 79-74, to No. 4 Randolph Macon

James Wang '12
James Wang '12

Box Score

Ashland, VA - Williams men's basketball suffered its first loss of the season tonight, falling to No. 4 Randolph Macon in the final of the Yellow Jacket's Christmas Classic, 79-74. The loss drops the No. 10 Ephs to 9-1.

Williams controlled the first half, leading 39-31 after the first 20 minutes. The game remained tight through the first six minutes before the Ephs took an 17-9 lead with 13:19 to go in the half, but the Jackets were able to tie the game back up at 19-19 with 10:10 remaining, and eventually took the lead, 25-24, with 6:27 left. RMC led by two, 31-29, with 2:59 to go before Williams went on a 10-0 run to end the half.

Point guards James Wang and Nate Robertson led the way for the Ephs in the first, scoring 13 and 10 points and grabbing 6 and 2 rebounds, respectively. Troy Whittington keyed the Williams defense, which held RMC to 34% shooting on the half, with 3 blocks. The team's strong shooting keyed their 8-point half-time lead, as the team shot 53% from the field in the half, going 16-30. However, the Ephs hit only 14% percent of its threes. The Ephs also turned the ball over 7 times.

As the second half began, it seemed as though the Ephs would walk away from the game with the victory, as the team opened a 16-point lead with 15:46 to go on a Whittington dunk. However, the Jackets slowly chipped away at the Eph lead before going ahead with 5:16 to go, 61-60. Williams continued to battle RMC down the stretch, but the Jackets took the lead for good with just over three minutes remaining and eventually claimed the victory, 79-74.

Wang had an equally strong second half, scoring 12 more second half points and ending with a 25-point, 8-rebound, 3-assist stat line. Co-captain Joe Geoghegan had a double-double, grabbing 12 rebounds and scoring 14 points. Wang and Geoghegan were named to the All-Tournament Team. Robertson ended the game with 14 points, while co-captain and leading scorer Blake Schultz scored 10 points on 3-10 shooting and grabbed five boards.

As a team, the Ephs shot 40% from the field in the second half and 47% for the game; the challenge, though, was not on the offensive end, as RMC typically holds teams to 36% shooting for the game. Instead, the Ephs had trouble holding back the Jackets in the second half, as RMC shot 48% from the field and went 17-20 from the from the free-throw line. RMC also scored 16 points on 13 Williams turnovers for the game and also picked up 12 second chance points.

Head coach Mike Maker was disappointed that the team lost but was pleased with his team's performance overall. "I thought we went toe to toe with the No. 4 team in the country on their home court," said Maker. "I am encouraged by our performance and disappointed that we did not get the result we all wanted, but I am confident that this experience will serve us well in conference play and in our upcoming tournament at home."

Maker attribute the team's loss to its struggles on the defensive end. "We got everything we needed [offensively]," said Maker. "We scored 74 points on the road against the No. 4 team in the country that is very talented and very well coached. We had a difficult time in the second half getting the necessary defensive stops. We fouled too much, and they had too many second chance points. We need to have the mental toughness and collective resolve to be able to guard down the stretch, particularly on the road, and we didn't do that. We didn't finish what could have been a sweet victory against a very good basketball team and it stings, it's disappointing, but I am encouraged by what I saw and I am sure it will serve us well."

The coach complimented the play of Wang, Robertson, and Geoghegan, but spoke more about how the team came together over the trip. "It's a team game, and while I am proud of some of the individual efforts, this was an outstanding trip for us from a chemistry standpoint and from a cultural standpoint and certainly in terms of the competition saw," he said. "We are a better team than we were four days ago, and we are disappointed by the result, but we are looking forward to playing again in front of our home crowd in our upcoming tournament."

The Ephs will host the Purple and Gold Invitational on Sunday and Monday; the team takes on Southern Maine to open the tournament at 5 p.m.