HARTFORD, CT – The Williams men's basketball team (11-1, 1-0 NESCAC) defeated the Trinity Bantams (8-5, 0-1 NESCAC) 80-60 in its first league match-up of the season. The Ephs jumped out to an early lead and continued to control play for the rest of the game.
While taking the double-digit lead shortly after tip-off, the Ephs began to control the game with 12:38 on the clock. Ryan Kilcullen nailed a three-ball off of a pretty pass from Duncan Robinson to give the Ephs the 18-7 lead. On the next Bantam possession, Daniel Wohl stole the ball, and Kilcullen finished in the paint on the Ephs' resulting opportunity. Kilcullen then hit a pair of free throws before Robinson finished inside to push the Eph lead to 17 just over halfway into the opening frame. The Bantams looked to get back in the game. Brian Horn hit a jumper, and Alexander Conaway scored a lay-up to cut the Eph lead to 13. With the chance to cut the deficit to just ten, Rick Naylor tried a long ball for Trinity. The shot did not go.
The two teams traded hoops for several minutes with the Ephs unable to push the lead to more than 17. With 5:21 left on the clock, though, Robinson nailed a long-ball to make it 36-18. The Ephs' final seven points of the half came from Hayden Rooke-Ley, who scored three lay-ups. He was fouled on one of the lay-ups and sunk the resulting free throw as well. Rooke-Ley's opportunities were broken up with Bantam finishes in the paint from Conaway and Steve Spirou. The Ephs went into the break with a 43-22 lead.
Out of halftime, the two teams traded buckets on the opening possessions. The Ephs pushed the lead to 26, though, with a three-pointer from Taylor Epley at the 17:38 mark. The 26-point lead was the Ephs' largest of the game. The Bantams responded with a six-point run out of a timeout. Shay Ajayi went two-for-three from the free-throw line. On Ajayi's third attempt, Conaway pulled down the offensive rebound. He finished the put-back to cut the lead back to 50-28. Edward Ogundeko then finished inside. The Ephs got a free throw from Michael Mayer and a pair from Epley to break up the run. Williams continued to push for the rest of the half, and the Bantams were unable to cut the lead to fewer than 18 points despite aggressive play.
Epley led the way for the Ephs with 19 points. Mayer and Kilcullen each added 13, and Rooke-Ley rounded out the double-digits club with 11. The Ephs shot 46.3% from the floor on the night.
Leading the way for the Bantams were Jaquann Starks and Naylor with 11 apiece. Trinity was 40.8% from the field in the contest.
After the game, head coach Mike Maker commented on starting league play with a win: "We approach every game in the same manner. Every game we play is important, but obviously in league play – especially on the road – you want to get off to a nice start. I thought we were ready to play. I thought we were efficient offensively in the half court: We shared the ball, made hard cuts, and set effective screens to get high-percentage shots against a very good defensive team in Trinity. Defensively, I thought our length and our zone defense enabled us to force a few turnovers and play with numbers offensively on the fast break and also allowed us to not get overwhelmed on the glass against a team that leads the league in offensive rebounding."
The Ephs return to the court tomorrow at rival Amherst. Game time is set for 4:00 PM.
Said Maker: "We have a tough test tomorrow at a very good Amherst team." However, he also said the team would not prepare differently: "We're going to do what we do. Our focus is on how we play and how we prepare. We have great respect for Amherst. They are very talented and a good basketball team. This is the earliest we've played them in my tenure in league play. Usually this would be a Little-Three game, but this is awfully early to play a team of their caliber on the road [in league]. We're looking forward to the challenge."