Ephs top Hamilton 88-68

Ephs top Hamilton 88-68
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams men's basketball team defeated the Hamilton Continentals (9-9, 1-4 NESCAC) today 88-68.  The Ephs (14-3, 4-1 NESCAC) took a decisive lead early on only to see the Continentals come bounding back in the second half.  With the Continentals unable to take the lead despite cutting the deficit to just one several times, Williams regained control just over halfway into the second stanza.

The Ephs jumped out to an early lead – pushing it to double digits just over five minutes into the game with a pretty 3-ball from the top right part of the arc from Ryan Kilcullen to make it 14-4. The Continentals cut the deficit back to six with a nice finish inside from Greg Newton and a pair of free throws from Matt Hart, but Taylor Epley hit a long ball to push the lead back to 17-8.  A couple possessions later, Matt McCreary drove to the hoop and passed the ball to Michael Mayer, who was open on the other side of the net. Mayer finished the easy lay-up to make the Eph lead 11. Peter Kazickas went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe for Hamilton before the Ephs pushed their lead to 16 with a lay-up apiece from Matt McCreary and Duncan Robinson before Robinson hit a 3-ball off of an assist from Mike Greenman.

The Ephs continued to push and extended their lead to as many as 19, but the Continentals looked to get back in the game with just over five minutes left to play in the first half. Down 34-19, Bradley Gifford finished off the board before Newton put up a jumper in the paint.  Daniel Wohl responded for the Ephs with a 3-ball, but Matt Hart hit one of his own for Hamilton to keep it at 37-24.  With neither team able to score for several possessions, Joseph Lin drove to the hoop for Hamilton and finished high off the glass to cut the lead to 11. After forcing an illegal screen, Hamilton got the ball back with the chance to cut the Eph lead to single digits.  Down the other end, Newton swooshed a jumper from the left elbow to cut it to 37-28.  A couple possessions later, Newton stole the ball and took it coast-to-coast and finished without the board to cut the lead to 37-30 with just under two minutes to play.

The Ephs finally broke their four-minute scoring drought with a finish inside from Wohl off of a pretty pass from Robinson.  Gifford finished a long two off of the dribble to keep the Eph lead at just seven, and the Ephs got the ball back with just a two-second difference between the shot and game clocks.  The Ephs were unable to convert, but the Continentals' final shot opportunity would not fall either, and the Ephs entered the locker room with the 39-32 lead.  Newton led all scorers in the opening frame with 12 points; Wohl had 11 for the Ephs.

Out of the break, the Ephs got the early jump from a 3-pointer by Robinson from the top-of-the-key with a hand in his face. However, Ajani Santos finished a bucket for the Continentals on their opening possessions, and Hart hit a pull-up jumper after crossing over his defender to cut the deficit to six. After a pair of free throws from Epley for the Ephs, Santos backed down his defender in the paint for two. With the Ephs unable to convert their offensive opportunities, Hart swooshed a 3-pointer off of a screen to cut the Eph lead to 44-41. Mayer rebounded off of a missed free throw and finished the lay-up before Hart finished from the right elbow to keep the Eph lead at three. Kilcullen knocked down a long 3-ball in the paint for the Ephs, but Kazickas finished inside and was fouled.  He converted the three-point opportunity.  Another finish in the paint from Hart cut the Eph lead to just one, but a pretty pass from Greenman to Robinson resulted in an easy lay-up to keep the Eph lead at three with 14:16 left in the second stanza.

After trading hoops for several minutes, the Ephs pushed their lead back to double digits.  Up 53-52, Mayer took the ball to the hoop and was fouled; he converted the three-point play for the Ephs. Wohl then hit a pair of free throws before Robinson hit a 3-ball for the Ephs.  Matt McCreary finished under the basket after making a hustle play to keep the Eph possession alive. His hoop gave the Ephs the 63-52 lead with 9:20 to play and forced a Hamilton timeout.

Out of the Continental timeout, Gifford went 2-for-2 from the line. On the next Continental possession, McCreary stole the ball and took it the length of the court. He was fouled and went 1-for-2 from the charity stripe to push the Eph lead back to double digits. Despite aggressive play from the Continentals for the rest of the game, the Ephs managed to regain the decisive lead they held in the first half – pushing it to as many as 21 before the game was out.

Leading the way for the Ephs today was Robinson with 24 points. Wohl added 17, and Mayer recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Epley added ten for the Ephs, who shot 50.0% from the floor on the day.

Hart led the way for the Continentals with 20. Newton added 12 – all of which came in the opening frame – and Gifford had a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Hamilton was 39.7% from the field.

Said head Coach Mike Maker after the game, "I'm really proud of our guys: We win by 20 at home.  This was a program game.  I think our guys were disappointed with the outcome of our last game (an 82-70 loss to Amherst).  For us to get back up after that says a lot about the character of our guys and the chemistry of our basketball program, and I'm very proud of them. We had four guys in double digits, shot 50.0% from the floor, and once again, our zone defense gave us the separation. When we went zone, it really helped us.  Our length in the zone is really good."

He added, "We're still finding our way defensively in man-to-man, but we're minus two guys that are very good defenders in Hayden Rooke-Ley and Daniel Aronowitz.  We're still finding ourselves and our rotations, and yet we looked better today simply for one reason: the ball went in the basket. We had open shots last game, and they didn't go in, and we had the same open shots today, and they went in, and you look like a different team when that happens."

He complimented the Continentals as well: "You've got to give them credit.  I think Hart's one of the best players not only in our league but in the country.  He's a very talented sophomore.  I thought we did a fairly good job on him, but he's tough to guard; he can score one-on-one.  They're very well-coached. Coach Stockwell does a good job."  

Maker stressed how happy he was with the team's performance: "This is a great win for us considering where we're at: on the heels of losing to your rival, two key players out, and not a full house.  For our kids to play like that says a lot about our guys; I love our players."

The Ephs will travel to Castleton on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM.

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