SCHENECTADY, NY – In the first round of the 31st annual Sig Makofski Tournament hosted at Union College, the Williams Ephs (4-0) defeated the Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors (1-4) by a final score of 82-71.
The game served as an important early season test for the Ephs. Eastern Connecticut State had already played two NESCAC teams, Middlebury and Conn College, suffering narrow defeats in both contests. In a classic case of a tale of two halves, the Ephs recovered from a 5-point halftime deficit to seal their 4th win of the season.
It would take some time before Williams could adjust to the athleticism of the Warriors, namely junior Tarchee Brown. Brown scored 17 first half points on 7-9 shooting. Despite early success on the offensive end, Williams found themselves fighting from behind for most of the first half. Hot shooting would keep the Ephs within striking distance. If three-point shooting had been an area in which Williams had struggled during the first three games, it sure didn't show today. In the first half, the Ephs shot 7-14 from long range, including three from sophomore Bobby Casey.
Free throw shooting was a different story as the Ephs went 0-4 from the line in the first half, not to mention missing the front end of two one-and-one's. The missed opportunities at the free throw line were the difference at halftime with Eastern Connecticut State taking a 44-39 lead into the break. The Warriors shot a staggering 63.3 percent (19-30) from the field in the first half.
"You can't win a game if you allow the other team to shoot 60% from the field. We also felt that we gave them some easy baskets, especially in transition. That said, we thought that we could wear them out with our depth. We told our guys to stay positive and be patient," said Williams head coach Kevin App.
At the half, Casey led the Ephs with 13 points. Senior Daniel Aronowitz had 12 points to go along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
After a three from Tyrell Arnum put Eastern Connecticut State up 47-39 to open the second half, Williams looked to Aronowitz to get them back in the game. Lucky for the Ephs, Aronowitz was more than up for the task. The Warriors couldn't figure out how to stop the Eph senior captain, who scored 16 points in the second half and 28 in the game. On the other hand, the Ephs started to play much tougher defense on Brown, who managed only four points after half time. The Ephs forced him into taking much tougher shots, as evidenced by his 1-9 shooting in the second half.
"Brown is a really good player. In the second half, we tried to focus on a couple little things that we talked about. I think our depth wore on him a little bit. We had multiple guys guard him throughout the game and it looked like he got a little fatigued," said App.
It didn't take long for Williams to extinguish their early second half deficit. With just under eleven minutes remaining in the game, Michael Kempton scored inside off a nice feed from Casey to give the Ephs their first lead in the second half, 56-54. After the Warriors called timeout, junior Cole Teal hit a three-pointer in front of the Ephs bench to extend Williams' lead to five, capping off an impressive 16-4 run.
The run gave the Ephs a huge wave of momentum. Casey, Aronowitz, and Teal continued to take care of the scoring while excellent team defense held the Warriors at bay. Casey's three-pointer with 3:14 left that put the Ephs ahead 80-67 may as well have been the dagger. Williams outscored Eastern Connecticut State 43-27 in the second half.
It was three-headed attack for the Ephs on the offensive end. Aronowitz continued his impressive start to the season with 28 points on 12-18 shooting. Casey finished with 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Teal also added 19 points.
"I was proud of how we played. Dan, Bobby, and Cole helped out with scoring, but other guys played huge roles as well. I thought for the second game in a row, James Heskett played phenomenal on both ends. It was also big to have Mike Greenman back out there running the team on the offensive end," said App.
As a team the Ephs shot 57.6 percent from the field including 10-23 (43.5%) from three-point range.
Brown led the Warriors with 21 points, while Arnum had 14.
"If we play Union tomorrow, it would be our first true road game. If we end up playing Cobbleskill, it's another opportunity to win a tournament. Either way, we're excited for whatever challenge is presented to us tomorrow," said Coach App.
Williams plays tomorrow in the championship game against the winner of today's game featuring SUNY Cobleskill and Union at 4:00 P.M.