WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams College men's basketball team defeated the Salem State Vikings (1-1) tonight 106-80 in the closing game of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament. The win is the Ephs' (1-1) first of the year.
The game was close for much of the first half. Up 33-31, Ryan Kilcullen nailed a long-ball from the top left part of the key to give the Ephs the five-point lead. A couple possessions later, Michael Mayer narrowly kept the ball from going out of bounds and dished it to Taylor Epley in the lane. Epley finished to push the lead to 38-31.
The Vikings cut into the Eph lead when Andrew White took a defensive rebound the length of the court for two. However, Hayden Rooke-Ley responded for the Ephs with a nice finish inside to push the lead back to seven before Viking Anthony Hodges nailed a three-ball from the right baseline to cut the lead to four.
After trading hoops for a period, the Vikings cut the lead to two with a pretty long-ball from Jon Perez. However, the Ephs got a pair of three balls from Kilcullen to push the lead to 49-41 with a minute and a half left in the opening frame. Duncan Robinson ended the half with a pair of free throws to give the Ephs the double-digit lead going into halftime.
Out of the break, the teams traded hoops for the first few minutes, but the Ephs pushed the lead to 12 at the 16:45 mark with a put back from Rooke-Ley, forcing a timeout for the Vikings. With the Vikings unable to convert, Epley nailed a three over a pick from Kilcullen to push the lead to 15. The Vikings tried to get back in the game, but a pair of threes from Epley and a third from Rooke-Ley gave the Ephs the 66-47 lead shortly after the timeout.
The Ephs continued to hold the decisive lead, but the Vikings looked like they may get back in the game just over halfway through the second half. White hit a long ball for Salem State. After an Eph turnover, Nicholas Grassa finished a pretty three ball off of a nice pass from Ryan Salvador. The Ephs, however, responded. Mayer went 1-for-2 from the charity space before Rooke-Ley finished in the paint. Robinson then hit a long ball to push the lead back to 84-65 with 9:52 on the clock.
The Vikings were unable to cut into Ephs' lead for the rest of the half, and the Ephs walked off the court with their first win.
The Ephs had six players in double digits tonight. Epley led with 20, and Robinson, Rooke-Ley, and Mayer added 18 apiece. Wohl added 14 and Kilcullen had 11 to round out the double-digits club. The Ephs shot 63.8% from the field in tonight's game.
Leading the way for the Viking was Perez with 20. White and Grassa each added 11 and Hodges added 10 for Salem State, who shot 42.6% from the floor.
Eph head coach Mike Maker said after the game: "This is what we call a program game. I had a lot of venom in me about yesterday and how we played, and the guys responded today. That's what champions do when they get knocked down: they respond. I think that's the Williams team and program that people are accustomed to seeing.
Maker added: "We're very comfortable with our players and our team, and balance is key...We shared the ball better, we trusted our teammates and our system better today, the ball moved, and we were very comfortable.
Maker also singled out Ryan Kilcullen for his outstanding play in the game, saying, "If Ryan keeps performing like this, then he'll force my hand into playing them [he and Mike Mayer] together sometimes."
The Ephs will travel to St. Joseph's (VT) on Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM.