Williamstown, MA- The Williams College women's basketball team recorded their second straight win against a NESCAC opponent today with a 66-49 victory over the visiting Middlebury College Panthers. Williams (13-4/3-3 NESCAC) was spurred on by the hot hand of junior Lauren McCall, who scored 19 points in the contest that included five three pointers. Middlebury (10-6/2-3 NESCAC) got 14 points from their leading scorer, sophomore Sarah Kaufman, but a strong team effort by the Eph's in their defensive half held the rest of the Panthers to 32.7% shooting from the field. Williams outscored Middlebury 19-6 in the third quarter, which quickly turned a one point halftime deficit into a twelve point lead.
Williams showed their commitment on defense from the opening tip, holding Middlebury scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. On the other end, McCall made her first two three pointers on back to back possessions as part of a 10-0 Williams run to begin the game. Middlebury quickly responded, using a 12-5 run of their own to finish the quarter only trailing by three points. Seven of those 12 points were scored by Kaufman.
Middlebury continued to gain momentum throughout the second quarter. This time the Panther's second leading scorer, freshman Catherine Harrison, did a majority of the work. Harrison settled into the post, scoring a layup as part of her six point quarter that gave Middlebury its largest lead of the game with four minutes to play in the half. The lead did not hold for long. Williams junior Devon Caveney, one of three Ephs in double figures with 12 points, knocked down a three on the very next possession. Then McCall hit her third triple after senior Oge Uwanaka stole the ball on the defensive end. McCall hit another three pointer a minute later to put the Ephs up 28-27 at the time. Middlebury finished the first half up 31-30 after the teams swapped leads seven times in the second quarter.
Williams sophomore Ammani Fernandez did her part for the Ephs in the third quarter, netting 11 of her team high 20 points that helped Williams open up a double digit lead. The Ephs played efficient basketball offensively, shooting 8-10 from the field in the quarter. They also continued what they started in the first half on the defensive end, recording six steals in the third quarter, two of them by Fernandez.
The Williams lead would continue to grow in the fourth, stretching to as much as 24 with two minutes to play in the game. Both McCall and Fernandez added five more points to their stat line in the final ten minutes.
Today's win marked the Eph's ninth straight victory over Middlebury. Williams head coach Pat Manning emphasized the Ephs improved defense and rebounding as key to the win today. Last weekend, the Ephs lost two straight games on the road against NESCAC teams that dropped their conference record to 1-3. The importance of today's win was not lost in the mind of Manning, who said, "This win means so much, there's not a lot of room for error when you only play ten conference games. To get a win against a very talented Middlebury team that has been playing well as of late is big."
Williams will now take a break from NESCAC play for the next three games before closing their season with four straight conference games. Even though their next game will not count in conference play, it will definitely have huge ramifications. The Ephs travel to face rival Amherst on Wednesday, looking to show just how much they have improved since they lost to Amherst 80-44 two weeks ago.