MIDDLETOWN, CT -- Bobby Casey scored 8 of his team-high 23 points in overtime to lead the Williams Ephs (10-2) to a 76-68 victory over the Wesleyan Cardinals (9-2). Despite losing to the Cardinals in a non-conference tilt back on December 2nd, the Ephs prevailed tonight on the road to pick up their first conference victory.
Both teams came out firing from deep in the first half as the game's first five possessions all resulted in made baskets. The Cardinals were the first team to create some separation, jumping out to a quick 15-5 lead including 8 points from Nathan Krill. But the Ephs fought hard to keep their deficit in single digits. A few minutes later, the Ephs fired off a 9-0 run to retake the lead at 20-19. Despite the momentum swing, Williams had no answer on defense to Wesleyan's Jordan Bonner, who accounted for the Cardinals' next 13 points. Krill drilled a turnaround jumped on the half's final possession to given Wesleyan a 39-32 lead at the break.
"I thought we picked up our intensity level a little bit. But really they just started missing shots," said Coach App. "In the first half they did a great job of making shots and I think the way we weathered that storm was very important."
Although the Ephs hit 7 of their 15 three point attempts, they only made 4 of 9 from inside the mark for a total team field goal percentage of 45.8 percent. Wesleyan, on the other hand, hit 16 of 31 from the field (51.6 percent) including an efficient 6 of 12 from three. The Ephs did hold a 17-2 edge in bench points. Bonner led both teams with 20 points in the first half.
"I was really proud of our bench in first half to come in and make plays," said Coach App. "Henry Feinberg, Marcos Soto, and Chris Galvin all did a fantastic job. That's how you win or at least have a chance to win back to back games in this league."
Five minutes into second half, Wesleyan jumped out to a 50-39 lead, their largest of the night. But back to back baskets from Casey and James Heskett helped the Ephs chip away. As the game wore on, both defense began to dig in and make easy baskets harder to come by.
"Ideally we don't turn it over 16 times," said Coach App, "but Wesleyan is one of the best teams in the country so you have to give them some credit."
A major turning point occurred when Cole Teal drilled a huge three with 10:32 on the clock to make the score 54-49 in favor of the Cardinals. At this point, it seemed inevitable that the Little Three rivals were headed for another dog fight.
Williams finally reclaimed the lead on a three by Heskett to make it 62-60 Ephs with just under five minutes to play. After Krill tied the game up two minutes later, neither team could manage another point for the remainder of regulation. The Ephs had the final opportunity to grab the win in regulation but Heskett's desperation three hit the front rim as time expired.
Casey would emerge as the hero of the overtime period. The junior drilled back to back deep three pointers to give the Ephs a 70-64 lead with just one minute remaining. Heskett, Mike Greenman, and Michael Kempton all sank big free throws in the finals seconds to seal the road win for Williams.
Casey put the Ephs on his back with 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Heskett added 16 points and 4 rebounds. As a team, the Ephs connected on 15-34 from three for a 44 percent clip.
Bonner led the Cardinals with 28 points and 9 rebounds. Krill added 20 points to go along with 9 boards. The Cardinals could only manage 23 points in the second half and just 6 in the overtime period. They shot an abysmal 1-19 from three after their hot start in the first half.
Williams plays their second NESCAC game tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Connecticut College.
"This was a great win but now we need to let it go and start thinking about tomorrow," said Coach App. "Saturday games are more about mindset and energy. Hopefully we can get another win tomorrow."