WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team defeated the Bowdoin Polar Bears (12-1, 2-1 NESCAC) tonight 69-64. Up as many as 14 in the second half, the Ephs (12-2, 2-1 NESCAC) narrowly survived a late run from the Polar Bears and were forced to convert free throws down the stretch to keep them at bay.
With the game tied at nine apiece, the Ephs started to pull away with a 9-0 run. Duncan Robinson hit a long ball before Daniel Aronowitz finished inside to make it 14-9 with 10:24 left in the opening frame. Michael Mayer then backed his defender down in the paint to push the lead to seven before he finished a lay-up off the glass to make it nine. Bowdoin came bounding back with a run of its own. Matt Palecki went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe before Keegan Pieri and John Swords each finished inside. A jumper from Matt Mathais cut the Eph lead to 18-16 with 4:41 on the clock.
The Ephs broke the Polar Bear run when Robinson swooshed a 3-ball from the top left part of the key. Lucas Hausman responded for Bowdoin with a drive to the hoop to keep it a one-possession game with just over three minutes left in the half. Robinson, however, hit another three from nearly the same spot to push the lead back to six.
Bowdoin refused to go away. Pieri went 2-for-2 from the line before hitting a pull-up jumper in the paint to cut the lead back to 24-22. On the next Eph possession, Bowdoin guard Mathais picked up a loose ball and took it the length of the court. He hit a pull-up jumper from the free throw line to tie the game up at 24 all with 1:21 on the clock. Robinson responded yet again for the Ephs with a baseline three from the left side. Hayden Rooke-Ley then hit a long ball of his own for the Ephs from the top right to push the lead back to six. With the final possession of the half, Bowdoin answered. Grant White hit a 3-pointer from the top right with a hand in his face to cut the Eph lead back to three. Williams entered the locker room with the 30-27 lead.
Out of the break, Bowdoin had an opportunity to tie up the game when Andrew Madlinger finished off of a pretty pass from Swords and was fouled. Madlinger was unable to convert the three-point opportunity. The Ephs responded with a 10-0 run. The run started with a beautiful play from Rooke-Ley, who drove to the hoop and dished the ball back out to Robinson at the top-of-the-key. Robinson hit the open three before Mayer went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe on the next Eph possession. Mayer and Robinson continued to carry the Ephs, and Mayer converted a three-point play after being fouled on his way to the hoop. Robinson then finished in the paint on the next Eph possession to push the lead to double digits, but Neil Fuller cut it back to 40-31 just over three minutes into the game. After neither team was able to score for several possessions, Epley pushed the lead to twelve with a long ball that resulted from a nice offensive rebound from Robinson to keep the possession alive.
The Ephs continued to hold the decisive lead for much of the half, but Bowdoin came bounding back. With the Ephs up 56-44, Hausman hit a 3-ball with 8:57 left to play. He then hit a free throw before Mathais hit a jumper to cut the deficit to just six. Mayer responded for the Ephs with a pretty hook shot off of an offensive rebound to push the lead back to 58-50 with 6:45 on the clock.
The two teams traded hoops for several minutes, but Bowdoin cut into the Eph lead even more when Swords hit both ends of a one-and-one to cut it to 60-56 with 3:44 left to play. Robinson responded yet again for the Ephs with a long ball from the top right part of the key with a hand in his face, but Hausman did the same at the other end for the Polar Bears. Out of an Eph timeout, Bowdoin forced a turnover. They made the extra possession count with a long ball from Madlinger to cut it to a one-point game, but Mayer backed down his defender with a spin move in the paint to push the lead back to 65-62. On the next Polar Bear possession, Madlinger was fouled on a 3-pointer attempt. He went 2-for-3 from the charity stripe to make is 65-64 with just over a minute left in the second stanza. Out of an Eph timeout, Rooke-Ley was unable to convert in traffic, and the Polar Bears got the ball back with time for two more possessions in the game. Bowdoin ran a play to get White open at the top left part of the key, but his 3-pointer was in-and-out, and Mayer pulled down the rebound. The Polar Bears fouled to stop the clock, and Mayer hit both free throw attempts to make it 67-64 with 15 seconds left to play. Following another missed opportunity by the Polar Bears, Mayer went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe. John Weinheimer got the offensive rebound with seven seconds left, and Robinson found himself at the line. He went 1-for-2 from the line as well for the Ephs' final points.
Mayer led all scorers tonight with 26 for the Ephs; Robinson added 24 on 8-for-11 shooting. No one else was in double digits for the Ephs, who shot 46.0% in the game.
Hausman led the way for Bowdoin with 18. Madlinger added 14 and Pieri 10 for Polar Bears, who was 45.1% from the field in the game.
Said head Coach Mike Maker after the game, "I think this is a marquee win for us. Bowdoin came in undefeated. I think they're every bit as good as the top-level teams in our league. They're disciplined; they're well-coached; they have veteran leadership and size on the interior. They don't beat themselves. I'm really pleased we found a way to win on our home court in front of a nice crowd."
Added Maker about Robinson, "I don't think Duncan plays like a first-year. Duncan's become one of our go-to players in his first year. He made some big shots when he needed it. I think he's getting more and more aggressive as the season moves on. He's as good a first-year as we've ever had here and we've had some good ones. The great thing about Duncan is that he's unselfish – to a fault. I think he should shoot more than he does. He made some big ones, and his teammates have confidence in him, and we needed him tonight to beat a very good team."
Added Maker about Mayer, "Mike's a premiere player, and he's a focal point of our offense."
The Ephs return to Chandler tomorrow to take on Colby at 4:00 PM.