Ephs set to host NESCAC Championship semifinals/final

Troy Whittington '11
Troy Whittington '11

2011 NESCAC Tournament

Men's Basketball

Semifinals and Championship

Saturday, February 26 and Sunday, February 27



Saturday's Schedule

2 P.M.

No. 1 Williams, No. 4 Trinity 69


4 p.m.
No. 2 Middlebury 67, No. 3 Amherst 61


Sunday's Schedule

No. 2 Middlebury 63, No. 1 Williams 54



WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- No. 1 Williams College (24-1) earned the right to host this weekend's NESCAC Tournament semifinals and finals via a 9-0 conference record during the regular season and a 82-62 win over Bowdoin in the quarterfinals of the tourney last Saturday.

The weekend's field will feature the No. 1 (Williams), No. 3 (Middlebury) and No. 7 (Amherst) ranked teams in the country according to the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 poll.

Williams (24-1) and Trinity (14-11) will square off in Saturday's first semifinal at 2 p.m. Middlebury (23-1) and Amherst (22-2) will play at 4 p.m. Saturday's winners will meet Sunday at noon in Williamstown for the NESCAC championship.

Tickets for this weekend's NESCAC Men's Basketball Tournament semifinals and finals to be played in Chandler Gym on the campus of Williams College Saturday and Sunday will go on sale Thursday morning from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and Friday from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m in the lobby of Lasell Gym.

Fans wishing to purchase tickets should enter from through the Spring Street entrance.

Ticket Prices: Adults:  $5.00, Students w/ID: $3.00 and Children under 12:  $2.00

On Thursday and Friday fans will also be able to purchase tickets for the NESCAC title tilt to be played in Chandler Gym at 12:00 p.m.

The doors to Chandler Gym will open at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday and all unsold tickets will be available at that time.

Fans are reminded that no artificial noisemakers will be permitted inside Chandler Gym.

All three games this weekend will be webcast. Click HERE to watch.

Williams College Ephs (24-1) vs. Trinity College Bantams (14-11)

For Williams (24-1, 9-0 NESCAC), the 2010-11 campaign has already had quite a few similarities to last year's remarkable season. The Ephs marched through the conference schedule undefeated for the second year in a row, capping it off with a hard-fought, 74-70 victory over rival Amherst at home on Feb. 12, and head into the semifinals once again with a 24-1 record after dispatching Bowdoin in the quarterfinals this past Saturday, 82-62.

Williams' lone loss came at the hands of Amherst during the annual non-conference meeting between the two back on Jan. 8, a 92-89 overtime decision in favor of the Lord Jeffs. Eph fans would like to see this season continue to mirror the last with yet another NESCAC title at the end of the week.

The Ephs haven't missed a beat thanks to the strong play of senior Troy Whittington  and junior James Wang, both of whom rank among the top five scorers in the conference. The prolific Wang is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor and heads up the Eph offense with 18.4 points per game. Whittington, who missed four games midway through the year due to injury, is second for Williams in scoring at 16.8 points, as he leads the nation in field goal percentage at .714 (130-182), while also grabbing a team-best 9.3 rebounds per game. The two former All-NESCAC honorees are not only strong candidates for this year's All-Conference First Team but are also top contenders for the league's Player of the Year award.

Bolstering the Ephs attack has been the play of sophomores James Klemm and Nate Robertson. Klemm slid into the starting line-up right away and has averaged 11.5 points per game this season. He leads Williams with 73 three-pointers and in free-throw percentage (96 pct.). Robertson tops the team in steals with 28 and is second in assists to Wang with 3.7 per game.

Senior Harlan Dodson had had one of his finest seasons, scoring 5.1 ppg. and grabbing 2.6 rebounds per game. Junior Brian Emerson has come off the bench to average 6.3 ppg. and 4.0 rebounds per game. First-years Hayden Rooke-Ley and Taylor Epley have seen their roles progress as the season as, and are averaging 6.2 and 6.5 points per game, respectively.

 Looking to prevent the Ephs from reaching Sunday's final will be fourth-seeded Trinity (14-11, 4-5 NESCAC).

A resurgent Tufts squad which they handled on Saturday, 70-47. The victory over the Jumbos returned Trinity to the semifinals for the first time since it ran all the way to its first conference crown in 2008. This weekend features the top four teams in the NESCAC in terms of defense, with Trinity and Williams tied for second having both allowed 60.9 points per game this year. When it comes to offense, the Ephs are second to none as they have outscored foes by 22.1 points per game - roughly 17 points more than the Bantams.

Saturday's first semifinal will be the second meeting between the two in tournament history after Williams upended Trinity 91-89 in the semis en route to the 2007 title. Leading the way for the Bantams this weekend will be the senior tandem of Luke MacDougall and Brian Ford  The pair lead Trinity in scoring this season, with MacDougall scoring 13.3 points per game and Ford averaging 12.6 points.

Middlebury College Panthers (23-1) vs. Amherst College Lord Jeffs (22-2)

The past four years have been some of the most historic for Middlebury (23-1, 8-1 NESCAC). The Panthers earned their first tournament victory in 2008, claimed the program's first NESCAC championship in 2009, won the most games in program history 2010, and reached the NCAA Tournament in all three years.

This season, Middlebury completed its conference schedule with an 8-1 mark for the third consecutive year, suffering its only loss of the overall season in a 69-64 setback at travel partner Williams on Jan. 29 in a rematch of the 2010 title game. Defense has been a key component to the Panthers' recent success and this year is no exception. Middlebury sits atop the conference and is among the top 10 nationally in points allowed, averaging a league-low 56.6 points per game, while also holding opponents to a .346 shooting percentage and a .294 showing from beyond the arc, both conference bests.

During Saturday's quarterfinal against seventh-seeded Connecticut College, the Panthers left little doubt as the Camels only managed 41 points on just .222 shooting - the lowest totals in tournament history. Looking to lead their team to two more victories this weekend will be the tandem of junior Ryan Sharry and senior Andrew Lockee. Sharry paces the Panthers, averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on .556 shooting. The 6-10 Locke, who missed Saturday's first round due to injury, is third in scoring at 10.8 points and first in blocks, as his 4.05 per game headline the conference's best swat team.

Amherst (22-2, 7-2 NESCAC) controlled its own destiny heading into the final weekend of the regular season. The undefeated Lord Jeffs sat tied atop the NESCAC standings with the rival Ephs with two games left to play, both daunting road contests against Middlebury and Williams. In order to guarantee itself the tournament's top seed Amherst would need a pair of victories, however the Jeffs came up short as they lost two close contests, 69-61 at Middlebury on Feb. 11 and 74-70 at Williams on Feb. 12.

Amherst returned to its winning ways during the quarterfinals, eventually pulling away from sixth-seeded Bates in a 77-61 final. The Lord Jeffs have won more tournament games than any other team in the conference, 22 in all, and are tied with Williams in conference crowns with four apiece.

It's been awhile since Amherst last celebrated a NESCAC championship, though. After taking the title in 2006 the Jeffs have fallen in the final to Williams (2007) and Middlebury (2009).

Hoping to reverse the recent trend is one of the deepest Jeff squads in recent memory with five players averaging in double-figures, including senior Conor Meehan (Meriden, Conn.) and freshman Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, N.C.). The two are atop the Amherst stat sheet with Meehan scoring 13.0 points per game and the rookie phenom Toomey at 12.4.

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