WILLIAMSTOWN, MA—In their first NCAA Tournament game since losing a heartbreaker in the 2014 National Championship Game to Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Williams College Ephs (20-8) handled the Becker College Hawks (19-9), themselves in their first Tournament game since 2012, in a 91-63 contest.
Becker opened the game looking strong, pulling ahead to a 7-2 lead early that they maintained for the first half of the period. Kareem Davis hit three three-pointers to keep the Hawks away from a surging Williams team.
After battling back to parity with 10:34 left in the half, Williams went on an absolute tear offensively. The remainder of the first half saw the Ephs hit 14 of their 20 shot attempts, including an astonishing 9 of 13 (69%), from three-point, including 8 of their last 9. During that period, Becker suffered from a series of unlucky bounces and rolls above and beyond the raucous Williams crowd; the Hawks shot just 23% from the field during for the rest of the half.
After the game, Williams guard Mike Greenman confirmed the effect of the crowd on the game. "I know it's cliché," he said, "but the crowd really is like a sixth man. It was really awesome to have their support."
Up by only one with 9:20 to play, Mike Greenman knocked down back-to-back three-pointers followed by a trey from Dan Aronowitz. Out of a Becker timeout, James Heskett stepped up to continue the streak, converting a three-point play and then swishing a trey of his own, before Kyle Scadlock nailed a three-pointer, the fifth from long distance without a miss.
With Becker still unable to score, Bobby Casey stole the ball and converted a fast-break opportunity for the Ephs' 24th point a row, and Mike Greenman added one last trey, his fourth of the night, before Khairi Mosley sunk a baseline jumper to end the Williams run at 27-0.
By no means did the Ephs slow down after this; three-pointers by Greenman and Dan Aronowitz were the sixth and seventh treys without a miss from Williams. When the final buzzer sounded in the half, Williams led 52-27. Williams shot 60% from the floor in the half and, thanks to their remarkable run of three-point shooting, 61.1% from long range.
Back-to-back treys by Mike Greenman and Cole Teal in the first few minutes of the second half to extend the Williams lead to 30 points announced their intentions to maintain control of the game. The Ephs reached their largest lead of the game, 44 points, halfway through the second half.
Becker worked their deficit down throughout the remainder of the game, especially once Williams let their reserves get some minutes—the Hawks nearly outscored the Ephs after halftime. Samuel Durodola in particular played well down the stretch for the Hawks, registering 12 points and 6 rebounds in the second half of play. The score sat at 91-63 when the final buzzer sounded.
Williams Head Coach Kevin App gave his thoughts on the game afterwards, saying "Once we found our footing on defense, we played with tremendous confidence that was helped by tremendous fan support. Overall, it was a fun game, it was great to be at home, and we're excited for the game tomorrow."
"Our leaders led and everyone else followed tonight," Coach App added, and Williams was indeed led by their two players with previous experience in the NCAA Tournament as members of the 2014 Final Four team: Mike Greenman and Dan Aronowitz. Greenman tied a career high and led all scorers with 21 points on seven three-pointers, also a career high. Aronowitz contributed a further 18 points on a 7-10 shooting performance. Cole Teal, Bobby Casey, and James Heskett were also in double digits for the Ephs.
After the game, Greenman credited his teammates for his career night, saying, "We moved the ball really well and were able to get shots in good position. My teammates got the ball to me and trusted me to make the shots, and luckily I did. It was all about keeping it simple like we've tried to all season."
Both Greenman and Aronowitz emphasized that they and the team approached the Tournament no differently from the regular season. Aronowitz said that the most important thing his previous Tournament experience had taught him was that "nothing is different." He added, "You don't have to treat practice any different, you don't have to treat the pre-game any different, you just have to trust what you've been doing all year because that's what got you there."
Samuel Durodola led Becker in both points and rebounds, notching a double on the strength of his 16 points and 10 boards. Kyle Credle added 15 points, while Kareem Davis and Donzell Cunningham each scored 9 points on the night.
On the game, Williams hit 54.1% of their shots and 51.6% of their long-distance attempts, a season-high for the Ephs from three-point. Becker shot 39.3% from the field and 37.5% from three-point.
Becker Head Coach Brian Gorman said after the game that the game didn't reflect how good his team is: "We had really been playing well, but we didn't tonight, and Williams was obviously a big part of that. It was just one of those nights for us." As senior Kyle Credle summed up, "Sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles."
Nevertheless, Coach Gorman was very proud of his squad: "Of course I'm disappointed in the outcome because I thought we could play better, but I am not disappointed in this team or what they have accomplished.
Williams will face the University of Scranton, who defeated SUNY-Osewgo in an 82-77 overtime thriller, on Saturday at 7PM EST for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.