WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. — The Williams College Ephs (13-11/6-4 NESCAC) held on to defeat the #18 Tufts Jumbos (18-6/8-2 NESCAC) 71-66 on Senior Day at Chandler Gym. Matt Karpowicz finished an and-one with 57 seconds left to put the Ephs up by five, and Williams iced the game with 9-10 free throw shooting the rest of the way.
Tufts came out firing in the second half, quickly turning a two point deficit into a six point lead. From that point on, the pace on both sides of the ball increased and the outcome was always up in the air until the final buzzer sounded.
"It felt great," Eph head coach Kevin App said of today's win. "I'm really proud of how we've played these last three games, especially yesterday and today. We looked like a winning team, in terms of buckling down defensively and getting stops when shots weren't going in against good offensive teams. This weekend, you saw a group that every guy 1-11 who got in played with a lot of poise and confidence."
Tufts scored on their first three possessions to take a 7-2 lead in the first 1:42 of action. Jovan Jones played with great confidence and pace as he found his way into the lane for layups on four occasions early, including one off of his own steal. Twice he grabbed an offensive rebound to keep the play alive.
Luke Rogers was a force inside for Tufts, using his 6' 8" size to put up six early points. Jones checked out with 14:10 left in the half, as Tufts held a slim 13-10 lead.
The Ephs defense held Tufts in check over the subsequent minutes, with the only Jumbo points coming from the free throw line for a span of 7:25. The Williams offense cooled off during this period as well, but managed to take over the lead. Nate Karren knocked down two free throws for the Ephs to tie the game at 15 with 9:57 to go in the period, and Spivy buried one of his own to make the score 16-15.
The Eph defense energized the squad, with turnovers on the defensive end leading to buckets on the offensive glass. Cole Prowitt-Smith showed off his handles when he drove down the lane and finished a left-handed layup to give the Ephs a 22-19 lead with 5:35 remaining.
Even when the Ephs did not convert on offense, their defensive mindset enabled them to stay ahead on the scoreboard. Both Spencer Spivy and Nate Karren registered blocks for the home team, and Karpowicz also limited Rogers to just three points the rest of the half following his hot start.
"Bates and Tufts have a lot of really talented offensive players that can score at every level, and hopefully that's where you see the challenging schedule we've had pay off — these guys have been in a lot of difficult situations," App commented of his team's composure this weekend.
Dylan Thoerner hit a three-pointer for Tufts with 1:34 left in the half to even the contest at 24, but Karren would find the hoop with one hand from a few feet out in the final minute to send the Ephs into the locker room up 27-25.
Jones was the leading scorer at the break with 12 points, while Rogers netted nine for Tufts. Both teams struggled from the three-point line in the first, with Williams going 0-10 and Tufts sinking 2-13. The Ephs and Jumbos combined for 19 fouls in the half.
Tufts equalled their first half makes from downtown in the first 90 seconds of second half action, taking a 31-27 edge. Mickey Babek ended an 8-0 Tufts run with a trey from the top of the arc, but Eric Savage and Rogers continued to pile on for the Jumbos.
Eph first-years Karren and Prowitt-Smith kept the Ephs afloat with five straight points, and fellow first-year Alex Stoddard connected on two free throws to put Williams on top 40-39 with 13:45 to play.
The big men made their mark on the offensive end for the Ephs, with Karpowicz and Karren scoring six consecutive points. Rogers and Savage accounted for 17 of the 20 Jumbo points in the half to this point, with Williams leading 46-45.
Rogers eclipsed the 20 point barrier to close the gap to 50-49 with a smooth finish in the paint, and the Ephs took a timeout with 5:32 left.
Prowitt-Smith caught fire out of the timeout, making a layup and a three-pointer to increase the Eph lead to four. Brennan Morris came back with a deep shot of his own, but Karpowicz scored the next four Eph points for a 59-55 advantage.
Two free throws from Savage put the pressure on the Ephs to respond, as they held just a two point lead with 1:25 left. Karpowicz did exactly that, converting an and-one with just under a minute left. On Tufts' offensive possession, Karpowicz fell on a loose ball, and the Ephs took a timeout to retain the ball.
"We kind of gutted out segments of the game, and made enough plays down the stretch to be victorious," said App.
Prowitt-Smith and Karpowicz went 4-4 from the line to give Williams a 66-57 edge with 36 seconds to go. Rogers gave the Jumbos some hope with a three-point-play, only for Prowitt-Smith to nail two more free throws. Spivy and Karpowicz also made free throws to seal the game.
Rogers led all scorers with 26 points, while Savage added 13. Tufts shot 22-58 (38%) from the field.
The Ephs received contributions from everyone, as they went 25-59 (42%). Karpowicz led the squad with 19 points and ten rebounds. Jovan Jones added 14 on 6-10 shooting. Prowitt-Smith and Karren had 13 and 10 points, respectively.
"24 games in, everyone is experienced now, especially with our group. That balance we always want to have and talk about was great to see. Nate Karren keeps getting better and is taking some pressure off Karpowicz. Then we can go to Matt down the stretch, and he closed the game out for us like a senior. I'm a very proud coach. We get another week, and now it's playoff time."