WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Williams (18-1/4-0 NESCAC) and Middlebury (15-0 with a game tonight at home vs. Southern Vermont/4-0 NESCAC) will battle for first place in the NESCAC Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Chandler Gym.
Williams and Middlebury have won the last two NESCAC titles with the Panthers taking the crown in 2009 and the Ephs prevailing in 2010. Middlebury has won three of the last five games in the series, but Williams has won 16 of the last 19 and holds a decisive all-time series lead, 75-21.
Middlebury won three in a row for just the second time in the series in 2008-09, snapping a 14-game Eph win streak. Last year Williams won at Middlebury 79-64 and then beat Middlebury in Chandler Gym 64-56 to capture the NESCAC title.
The Panthers are the top ranked defensive team in NESCAC holding opponents to 58.1 points a game this year. Middlebury has allowed the opposition to score on 35% of field goal attempts and just 29% of three point attempts. Additionally, the Panthers sport a +10.9 advantage per game on the glass and they have blocked 115 shots (7.7).
Williams is third in NESCAC defense allowing 60.5 points a game, while holding the opposition to 36% success from the floor and 30% from beyond the arc. On the glass the Ephs hold an advantage of +7.9.
Last year Middlebury won the battle of the boards in both games, by one at Middlebury and by eight in Chandler. Rebounding will be key in Saturday's game as the Panthers have had a great deal of success on the glass and own a definite height advantage over the Ephs.
Ryan Sharry a 6-8 junior leads Middlebury in scoring (14.0) and on the boards (10.5), while connecting on 56% of his floor shots. He also has 29 blocks to date. Senior forward Ryan Wholey, 6-4, averages 12 points a game and hits on 40% from beyond the arc.
Senior center Andrew Locke who checks in at 6-10 has blocked 56 shots this season and averages 11.1 points and 8.1 boards. He is shooting 61% from the floor.
The Panther backcourt features a pair of 6-2 sophomores in Nolan Thompson and Jake Wolfin. Thompson is connecting on 45% of his threes and contributes 10.4 points a game. Wolfin leads the Panthers in minutes played and assists (85), while scoring at a 7.3 clip.
Middlebury head coach Jeff Brown has 6-5 senior Jamal Davis to bring in off the bench, most often defensive purposes, but Davis showed he could score points when he tallied 17 in the first matchup with the Ephs a year ago. First year guard Joey Kizel averages 7.1 points and has dished out 61 assists providing solid backcourt depth.
In both wins last season the Ephs shot at least 10% better from the floor than did the Panthers. Hot shooting can overcome a height disparity and even up the battle on the glass, but the Ephs will need to be hot against the conference's top ranked defense.
This season Williams is hitting on 50% of their field goal attempts and 40% of threes, and a most impressive 81% from the free throw line.
|James Wang drives on Andrew Locke|
Junior guard James Wang, 6-0, who recently scored his 1,000th point leads the Ephs in scoring (18.5), assists (77) and minutes played (30.4). Wang is hitting 50% from three-point range (50-100), 53% from the floor (116-218) and 83% from the charity stripe (60-72).
Senior Troy Whittington a 6-5 inside presence on both ends of the floor is tallying 17.5 points a game and he is the #1 ranked field goal shooter in NCAA Division III at 73%. Whittington leads the Ephs in rebounding with 9.3 and he has recorded 29 blocks in 15 games.
The Ephs lone loss of the year came when Whittington was out with an injury and the Ephs went 3-1 without his presence on the floor.
The tallest Eph starter is senior forward Harlan Dodson who stands 6-8. Dodson is a streaky shooter who can stretch defenses with his threes. He averages 5 points and 2.9 boards.
Joining James Wang in the backcourt is 6-2 sophomore Nate Robertson. Robertson usually draws the opponent's toughest backcourt player to guard and he averages 7.9 points a game. He has assisted on 56 hoops thus far.
Sophomore James Klemm a 6-3 forward/guard completes the Eph starting lineup. Klemm is averaging 12.3 points a game and has drained 40% of his threes.
Eph head coach Mike Maker has made extensive se of three players in particular off his bench, two first years and a junior. Taylor Epley a 6-4 first year forward averages 6.4 points a game, 4.8 rebounds and gives Maker another player who can guard in the paint. Classmate Hayden Rooke-Ley at 6-2 has proven to be a physical guard who likes to attack the hoop. He tallies 6.1 points a contest and is collecting 4.1 rebounds a night, but in the Ephs last outing at Skidmore he pulled down 13.
Junior frontcourt player Brian Emerson at 6-8 plays mostly inside, but has shown some success at hitting the three this season. Emerson is scoring at a 5.6 clip and hauling in 4.2 boards a game.
Fouls, foul trouble, and free throw shooting could all be factors in the contest on Saturday, especially if it is close. The Ephs can ill afford to lose Whittington to foul trouble and the Panthers would be in trouble if they lost Sharry or Locke to fouls. In a tight contest free throw attempts are magnified and thus far Williams has connected at an 81% clip (285-353), while the Panthers have hit on 65% (240-372).
The goal of each team is to be the one to walk out of Chandler Gym at 5-0 in NESCAC.
With the break in the academic calendar between Winter Study and second semester in effect at Williams there should be plenty of seats in Chandler for the showdown. You can't beat the price of free admission and you also get to see the Middlebury women and Williams women battle at 4:00 p.m.