Middletown, CT- The Williams College women's basketball team took to the road today to play their first game of the season against a NESCAC opponent. Williams (8-0) traveled to Silloway Gymnasium, home of the Wesleyan College Cardinals, where junior Devon Caveney led the Ephs to a 81-62 victory in the game that will count towards in Little Three play.
Caveney led all players with 29 points in 36 minutes of playing time, adding six rebounds and four steals to her stat line to complement her impressive performance shooting the ball.
Williams got off to a fast start in the first quarter and the Ephs were able to effectively build on that momentum throughout the game. Caveney wasted no time starting her excellent performance, scoring the first basket of the game which was then followed by a made three point attempt from her classmate Lauren McCall. A balanced offensive attack from the Ephs allowed them to begin the game on an 11-3 run, forcing the Cardinals to both find a way to get stops on the defensive end and establish a rhythm offensively.
Wesleyan freshman Tara Berger, who led four Cardinals in double figures with 16 points, was able to settle her team down by scoring five of the eleven Wesleyan points in the quarter. The Williams lead was only six at the end of the first quarter after Williams cooled down a bit following their hot start.
The intensity was brought up a notch in the second quarter, marking the level of competition that is expected between teams in the same conference. Even though the game did not count towards the NESCAC standings, it was the first conference meeting for either team.
Williams head coach Pat Manning noted in her post-game interview the importance of having an experienced group of upperclassmen on the roster when it comes time for conference play. Caveney is one such upperclassmen. Another, senior captain Katie Litman, demonstrated her value to the team in the second quarter, leading the way with eight points and five rebounds in the period, which set her well on her way to yet another double-double. Litman also recorded an assist, a steal, and a block in the quarter, showing how points and rebounds are not necessarily the stats that win conference games that can come down to which team does the little things better. Wesleyan countered with an upperclassmen of their own, junior Danielle Gervacio, who gave her team four points, two rebounds, and two steals in the second quarter.
The Williams lead stood at ten when the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter. While that deficit was going to be difficult for Wesleyan to overcome, a strong third quarter from the Ephs only added to the level of difficulty. Williams outscored Wesleyan 25-13 in the third quarter led by their backcourt duo of Caveney and sophomore Ammani Fernandez. Caveney had two steals to go along with 12 third quarter points. Manning said her team has been working on attacking the basket off the drive, evidenced by the explosive ability of both Fernandez and Caveney. Fernandez complimented Caveney with six points, all coming off layups, as well as four assists. The play of Fernandez and freshman Lauren Vostal, who provided four points, four rebounds, a block, and a steal off the bench, highlighted the importance of finding underclassmen to step up their games when it comes time to battle it out for a NESCAC title.
Defensively, Williams held the Cardinals to only ten attempts from the field while forcing nine turnovers, leading to a 22 point lead at the end of three quarters.
Wesleyan played their best basketball of the day in the fourth quarter, with Berger and Gervacio leading the way by recording six points each in the period. Caveney would not step off the gas, scoring seven more in the fourth quarter and getting much needed help from sophomores Val Oyakhilome and Lydia Zaleski, who combined for eight points off the bench. Despite these efforts, Wesleyan outscored Williams 22-19 in the quarter, but by that point the lead that Williams had built up was too great to overcome.
Pat Manning said after the game, "I thought we came out a little flat, even though we were scoring well early we weren't playing great defensively and we really tried to work on that in the second half. Besides that I thought we played great against a team that has a better post game than any other team we have faced so far this year, which is thanks in large part to the play of Katie Litman today." Manning also noted the success that the Ephs found close to the basket, praising Caveney and Fernandez for their ability to attack the basket in the half court and also when they were able to get out in transition.
The win by the Ephs was there 13th straight over Wesleyan and their seventh straight win in Middletown.
Williams rose in the national rankings for Division III women's basketball to #18 this week. The next big test for the Ephs will come in the classroom rather than on the hardwood as the students prepare for finals. After these and a quick break for the Christmas holiday, the Ephs will be back in action in the closing days of 2015.
Williams will now take a two week break before their next chance to stay unbeaten, which will come on December 29 in a matchup with Whitman College in the Nashville Music City Classic. Wesleyan (6-2) will not play again in 2015, waiting patiently until the first weekend in January when they will participate in the Naismith Tournament hosted by Springfield College.