WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Coming off an overtime victory over rival Wesleyan, the Williams College Ephs (3-2) defeated the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Trailblazers (1-2) by a score of 82-71.
A total of 50 fouls were called in the game, and the teams combined to shoot 63 free throws; Williams converted 87.8% from the stripe, giving the Ephs a distinct advantage over the Trailblazers, who only made 68.2% of their foul shots.
The Trailblazers brought a very physical style of play against the Ephs, contesting every shot and dominating the paint. However, this physicality ended up punishing the Trailblazers, as they were charged with 32 fouls in the contest.
The first half saw the teams neither team really able to dominate the other. After Williams sprang out to a lead that was as high as nine at one point, MCLA was able to go on a 9-2 run over the course about 3 minutes to even the score at 21 with 7:39 left in the half.
Careem Kirksey nailed a trey, followed by Todd Hunt converting a hook shot to bring the Trailblazers within two. After Hayden Rooke-Ley hit two foul shots, Todd threw it down after a steal by Anthony Barbosa, and then Paul Maurice hit a jumper from the left side to tie it up. Neither team was able to assert a strong lead after this, and the half expired with Williams holding a slim lead, 36-34.
MCLA was able to effectively defend down low with strong paint play by Todd Hunt and Tyriq Rochester, who came up with a huge block late in the half.
Daniel Wohl led all scorers with 9 first-half points, while Paul Maurice led MCLA with 7. Todd hunt led al rebounders with 4.
There was no defining moment or run in the second half that handed the game to the Ephs; this game was never a foregone conclusion. The Ephs powered through the game, steadily holding and then increasing their lead throughout the second half. As Williams head coach Kevin App said, "We've been talking all week about playing through everything: playing through calls, missed shots made shots, etc, and I think we did that tonight. I was really proud of our guys for that."
Coming out of the half, MCLA kept the Ephs largely in check, preventing them from building a significant lead. After a three-pointer by Todd Hunt brought the Trailblazers within two, Williams took a timeout to regroup.
Out of the timeout, Daniel Wohl sunk a three-pointer from left of the key, and after Hayden Rooke-Ley and Paul Maurice traded pairs of foul shots, Rooke-Ley got the feed from Mike Greenman down low and converted the layup to put the Ephs up 8, 65-57. A pair of free throws by Mike Greenman then made the lead double digits.
The Trailblazers were never able to reel the Ephs back from this margin; in fact, Williams did not make a field goal in the last 4:30 but subsisted on solely foul shots to maintain their lead. Down seven with less than a minute to play, MCLA opted to intentionally foul in order to conserve clock, and the Ephs sailed to victory on free throws.
Hayden Rooke-Ley led all scorers with 26 points, 16 of which came from his perfect performance from the charity stripe, while Adam Conquest led the trailblazers with 15 points. Ryan Kilcullen for the Ephs and Todd Hunt for MCLA both recorded a game-high 9 rebounds.
Williams shot 40.8% from the field, while MCLA converted 42.6% of their field goal attempts. The biggest difference came in free throw percentage, where Williams outperformed MCLA 87.8% to 68.2%.
After the game, Coach App reflected on his team's performance from the line, saying "We take pride in shooting the basketball…our seniors stepped up, but I've got confidence in all our guys to make [free throws] down the stretch, and that's a great feeling as a head coach."
Coach App also talked about the team's overall mindset: "It's been a long ten days, playing five games since November 15, and our guys are tired. We've got to keep focusing on the little things, on rebounding, but I was really proud of our effort. Our guys compete, they've been in some big games."
MCLA will host NYU on Saturday, while Williams next faces Skidmore College on Saturday as part of a tournament at Union College in Schenectady, NY.