MIDDLETOWN, CONN. — The Williams College Ephs (11-11/4-4 NESCAC) held off a tenacious second half comeback from the Wesleyan Cardinals (13-8/2-5 NESCAC) to cap off a 4-0 Little Three campaign with a 73-54 win on Friday evening. The Cardinals cut a 22 point halftime deficit all the way down to four, but the Ephs finished the game on a 16-1 run to seal the victory.
Speaking on the Little Three sweep, Eph head coach Kevin App said, "Wesleyan and Amherst are two great teams, and they've made our program and coaches a lot better. We know every game against them is going to be fun, tough, and competitive. I'm really proud of the guys for coming out on the right side of all four games this regular season, and I know the seniors are proud of this accomplishment."
Wesleyan got on the scoreboard first, and the teams battled to an 8-8 tie. Mickey Babek nailed his second shot from downtown 5:11 into the contest to hand the Ephs an 11-8 edge that they would never relinquish.
Henry Feinberg's first bucket of the night gave Williams a 23-8 lead with 10:27 to go in the half and polished off a 15-0 run for the Ephs. Three layups from Matt Karpowicz over a 3:20 timeframe were instrumental in opening up the perimeter.
A three-pointer from Spencer Spivy increased the Eph advantage to 17, as they seemed to be taking control of the game. Cole Prowitt-Smith found the hoop from long range as the first half buzzer sounded, sending the Ephs into the locker room up 42-20. The Williams attack was extremely balanced in the first half, with six Ephs scoring multiple baskets.
The biggest story of the half was not the scoring of Williams, but rather their defense. The Ephs forced the Cardinals to take difficult shots, as they went 8-35 (23%) from the field and 4-18 (22%) from deep. Said App, "When we've been at our best, we compete and play really hard on the defensive end. When you're playing with that effort and intensity, good stuff happens."
Wesleyan, led tonight by reserve Gabe Ravetz, started to gain momentum early in the first half. Seven points from Ravetz and four from David Dixon prompted an Eph timeout with 15:22 left and the score 49-33. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Jovan Jones was equally hot for the Ephs during this stretch. He scored all seven Williams points during the span, limiting the Cardinals comeback.
Ravitz maintained his intensity out of the timeout, hitting a three-pointer to trim the Eph advantage to 15. Wesleyan's domination on the offensive glass helped them immensely, as a layup from Jordan James after the Cardinals' 20th offensive rebound saw his team down 53-39. James threw down a dunk a few minutes later, and Williams' halftime lead was cut in half — they led by just 11.
Prowitt-Smith immediately responded for the Ephs, using a head fake to create space for himself and subsequently launching a three that swished through the net and put Williams up 57-43.
Walker then hit back-to-back three-pointers — the second a catch-and-shoot from the wing — to cut the advantage to four, and the Silloway Gymnasium crowd rose to their feet.
The Ephs would then put the ball in the hands of an experienced leader, Babek. He scored his first points of the second half and his third three-pointer of the game from the corner, giving Williams a 60-53 lead. On the next Eph possession, Babek cashed in on a deep ball from the wing, and the Ephs regained a double-digit edge with 3:38 to go.
"I thought you saw the confidence and composure of Mickey on Monday carry over to today," App praised. "He was open and had made big shots — including a big three to beat Amherst. This year has been about a lot of guys having those situations and learning how to be successful in them. I'm super proud of our seniors, and they continue to lead and fight for us. "
The Cardinals scored just one point the rest of the way, as the Ephs escaped with a victory. Ryan Moon was 6-6 from the charity stripe over the final 1:25 to close out the win. In the words of App, Moon "gave us a spark and helped us get the win."
"As a coach, that's where you hope to see the group 22 games into the season — trusting it, not getting tight, and remaining confident," App said of the Ephs' poise. "We got a couple big stops down the stretch, and closed it out at the free throw line."
Babek was the leading scorer for the Ephs with 14, while Jones added 12 points and seven rebounds. Prowitt-Smith went 3-4 from three-point range to tally nine points. The Ephs were 12-27 (44.6%) from beyond the arc, tying their most makes of the season and just edging out their previous best percentage of the season (44.4%).
For the Cardinals, Ravetz and James netted 15 and 13, respectively. Both players came off the bench to lead the team in scoring.
The Ephs close out the regular season next weekend at home, with a Friday night matchup against Bates at 7 p.m. followed by a Saturday showdown against Tufts at 3 p.m.
"We're right in the thick of things heading into the last weekend of conference play, and there's no better place to be than in Chander for those games," App remarked. "We've been on the road a lot this year, so it'll be nice to be home and get in another great week of preparation and improvement. Hopefully, we can string a couple together here against two great teams."