WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Blake Schultz, James Wang and Alex Rubin combined for 66 points in front of a packed Chandler Gymnasium to lead Williams men’s basketball past University of Maine-Farmington 83-64 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The victory pushes the Ephs’ record to 27-1 and marked the team’s 18th straight win, which ties Williams’ all time record for consecutive in-season wins set in 2003-2004. UMF finished the season with a 15-12 record; the NCAA tournament appearance was the program's first.
The Ephs went 20-22 from the line in the game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Schultz broke a scoring slump with a team-high 23 points on 8-14 shooting (5-7 from three); the 23 points gives Schultz 520 points for the season; he is the first Eph to break the 500-point mark since Ben Coffin scored 524 in the 2003-2004 season. Wang finished with 22 points while going 7-7 from the line and picking up six assists, and Rubin scored 21 on 6-11 shooting (5-7 from three).
UMF was led by Eric Taylor and Eric Lelansky, who scored 24 and 18 points, respectively. The Beavers shot 45.6 from the field and outrebounded the Ephs 32-25, and Taylor had a game-high 9 boards.
The Ephs will now take on SUNYIT in the third round of the tournament. The time and location have yet to be announced, though the game will occur next Friday.
The game was closer than the final margin would suggest, as UMF played scrappily while forcing the Ephs to play defense for all 35-seconds of the shot clock. The Ephs jumped out to an 19-6 lead after a Schultz fast-break layup with 12:08 in the first half, but then the Beavers buckled down, clawing their way back to take the lead, 25-23, with 5:32 to play in the half on a Lelansky three pointer. Schultz responded for the Ephs, knocking down a three of his own on the next Eph possession to take the lead back for Williams.
The Ephs would not trail again in the game, though UMF kept the game close. The Ephs were able to open up a 35-29 lead at the half as Schultz and Rubin combined to score 8 of the Ephs’ final 10 points.
Schultz and Rubin had 15 and 10 points, respectively in the first half, while Lelansky ked the way for the Beavers with 13 points on 5-7 shooting.
The difference in the first half was turnovers and free throws. Williams scored 10 points on 9 UMF miscues and went 6-7 from the line, while the Beavers didn’t score at all on the Ephs’ 4 turnovers and went only 2-5 from the line. The Ephs barely outshot the Beavers in the half, 43 percent to 42 percent, and UMF outrebounded Williams 20-14.
UMF kept up its scrappy play as the second half began, and a layup by Taylor 3:04 into the half cut the Eph lead to two, 39-37. The Ephs responded with a 9-2 run capped by a a Schultz three-pointer that made the score 48-39 with 15:18 to play.
Yet again, UMF fought back, cutting the Eph lead to five, 50-45, with 14:03 to play. The Eph lead then hovered around five before a momentum-changing alley-oop dunk from Troy Whittington off an inbounds pass from Wang gave the Ephs a 55-48 lead with 13:23 to play.
Williams opened up a lead following the slam, with the margin returning to double digits, 61-50, on a Wang three with 9:56 to play; the Ephs did not lead by less than seven the rest of the game. A jumper by Taylor with 3:17 to play made the score 69-62 in favor of the Ephs, but the Beavers couldn’t cut into the seven point margin, and the Ephs pulled away down the stretch behind perfect free-throw shooting from Wang, Rubin, and Whittington.
UMF improved its offense in the second-half with 49 percent shooting from the field and scored 22 points in the paint behind 18 second-half points from Taylor. However, it was even more a tale of two halves offensively for the Ephs, as the team shot 62 percent from the field in the half and 67 percent from three. Wang led the way with 20 second-half points, while Rubin added 11 and Schultz added 8.
Whittington joined the high-scoring Eph trio in double digits with 10 points, while also grabbing 6 rebounds and blocking four shots. Geoghegan led the way on the glass for Williams with 8 rebounds and chipped in 4 points, while Nate Robertson rounded out the Eph scoring with 3 points.
“I don’t think we expected them to be that good,” said Rubin. “They were the most deliberate team we played all year, and they made us defend 35 seconds every possession, but overall I think we played them well.”
“I thought we played well in the first half," said Eph head coach Mike Maker. "We got off to such a quick start and we played so hard and with so much energy that we got a nice cushion, but we didn’t play with intelligence defensively in regards to assignments and concepts. I thought in the second half we did a better job understanding personell and what they were trying to accomplish. We showed a will to win today, and our toughness surfaced when we needed it most.”
“I think we came out with a lot of emotion and working hard on defense, but we let some things slip and didn’t pay attention to some of the things we talked about on defense,” said Schultz. “We were able to get it back and play better throughout the rest of the game.”
Maker, Schultz, and Rubin all commented on the impressive turnout from the Eph fans. “We appreciate the support of crowd,” added Schultz. “It’s been a great great atmosphere and I hope that continues.”
In other tournament action, No. 1 ranked Wash. U fell 75-70 to Illonois Wesleyan and Middlebury fell to RIC 75-59. Meanwhile Guilford, Eastern-Mennonite and Randolph Macon, who handed the Ephs their only loss of the season, all advanced. For more on the tournament, go to D3Hoops.com.