WILLIAMSTOWN, MA—The Williams College Ephs (21-8) punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen with an 80-53 victory of the University of Scranton Royals (22-7). Excellent three-point shooting and an aggressive defensive presence allowed Williams to take a 17-point lead by halftime that they only extended in the second half for the victory.
Scranton scored the game's first nine points and made their first seven shot attempts, holding Williams scoreless for the first three minutes of the contest. Probing the interior of the Eph defense, Royal big men John Vitkus and Drew Schankweiler each contributed a post bucket. Ethan Danzig followed up with a trey from the top of the Key before Vitkus hit a mid-range jumper to give the large crowd of Eph faithful some anxiety.
They were quickly reassured, however, when Williams demonstrated their intention to continue with their red-hot three-point shooting of the previous night. Mike Greenman, who hit a career-high 7 treys against Becker, knocked down back-to-back three-pointers, and, after layups by Ethan Danzig and John Vitkus extended the Royal lead back to 9, senior Dan Aronowitz knocked home two consecutive threes of his own, riling up the crowd and cutting the Eph deficit to just five.
Mike Greenman answered a John Vitkus dunk with yet another trey, and Cole Teal converted a fast break layup, Williams's first two-point bucket of the game, to knot the game at 17. A pair of foul shots by Kyle Scadlock plus treys by Bobby Casey and Dan Aronowitz put Williams up seven. Scranton held the margin there for a couple minutes, but Cole Teal nailed three consecutive treys to put the Williams lead firmly in double digits with 3:55 to play. The lead stabilized at 14 until Dan Aronowitz beat the halftime buzzer with his third three-pointer of the half to put Williams up 48-31.
While Scranton converted a very high percentage of shots they put up—62% in the half—the Eph defense did an excellent job preventing those shots from going up in the first place. Williams forced thirteen turnovers in the first half, including nine steals.
"That really came out of us being able to take Scranton out of what they wanted to do," Williams Head Coach Kevin App said after the game. App largely credited sophomore center Michael Kempton with this success: "He came in to guard one of the best post players we've seen all year [John Vitkus] and he totally took him out of his game. Mike is one of the better post defenders I've ever seen, and that was a huge part of our game tonight.
Nineteen of Williams's thirty shots in the first half were from behind the arc, and they hit eleven of them (57.9%), including five in a row on their way to equalizing the game early. Cole Teal, whose three straight treys went a long way towards confirming the Eph lead, said that the shooting was contagious.
"If I see Dan [Aronowitz] or Greenie [Mike Greenman] hitting threes—and when you've got the home crowd to feed off of—I'll shoot with confidence, and that's all shooting really is: confidence."
The Ephs' shooting was equally difficult for Scranton. Ethan Danzig, who made four three-pointers of his own in the game, called it "demoralizing"; "We got off to a good start, but whatever we did on defense they just kept pouring it in," Danzig added. Scranton Head Coach Carl Danzig added that it felt like Williams didn't miss a single shot: "It would have been helpful for us if they'd missed a few shots, but they just kept falling and the hole kept getting deeper. That's the nature of the beast."
Williams opened the second half with an 11-3 run that upped the margin to 25 points, essentially putting the game away. While Scranton worked the deficit back down to 20, helped by two key three-pointers by Ethan Danzig and an abysmal 2-12 performance from three by the Ephs in the second half, they were never able to make a serious run at Williams in the half. At the final buzzer, Williams led 80-53.
Daniel Aronowitz led all scorers with 22 points, a performance which makes him the 18th player in Williams history to score 500 points in a season. Mike Greenman set another career high, this time with 11 assists to pair with his 11 points; Michael Kempton was one rebound shy of a double-double, registering 10 points and 9 boards. John Vitkus led the Royals with 15 points and 5 rebounds, followed closely by Ethan Danzig's 14 points.
Williams will face Susquehanna University next Friday in the Sweet Sixteen, likely at Middlbury.
"It has been fun up until now," Coach App said, "and hopefully that confidence we've seen will just keep snowballing. We're excited to have another week to enjoy playing basketball with this group."