WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – In an impressive bounce-back effort, the Williams Ephs (5-4, 1-0 Little Three) snapped the Wesleyan Cardinals' (4-2, 0-1 Little Three) four-game winning streak with a 67-49 win to earn their first Little Three victory of the 2018-19 season.
Having averaged 77 points per game over their last four contests, the Cardinals managed just 49 against a stout Williams defense that didn't let up at any point. The Ephs, coming off an 81-71 loss at Vassar in which the team's defense struggled, rebounded in a big way, beating their Little Three rivals in order to climb back over .500.
"I'm so proud of our defensive intensity," Eph head coach Pat Manning said after the win. "We've had lapses in our last couple of games, and we needed to play 40 minutes, and we did that."
The Ephs sprinted out to a 9-2 lead on the strength of a pair of buckets by senior guard Lexi Jones and a three-pointer from junior guard Emily Chang. The Cardinals responded with a 9-4 run of their own, but the Ephs fought right back. With time running out, sophomore guard Mikaela Topper dribbled to her left and at the last second, shot a perfect floater with her right hand to beat the buzzer and put the Ephs up 19-12 at the end of the first.
Williams continued their momentum into the second quarter, immediately responding to a quick layup by Wesleyan with a three-pointer by sophomore guard Maggie Meehan. Later in the quarter, Meehan made an impressive right-handed finger-roll layup with three minutes to go to put the Ephs up by thirteen, which equaled the 38-25 margin at halftime.
The Ephs played more efficient basketball than the Cardinals in the first half, outperforming Wesleyan in field goal percentage (45.2% to 33.3%), three-point field goal percentage (50% to 16.7%) and free-throw percentage (75% to 25%).
Despite finding themselves in foul trouble with 3 fouls just over two minutes into the third, the Ephs were able to maintain a double-digit lead for the entirety of the third quarter. Less than ten seconds after Wesleyan narrowed the margin to 10, Chang responded with another clutch three from the corner to swing the momentum back to Williams. The Ephs finished the third quarter up 51-39.
Just as Wesleyan appeared to be clawing their way back in the fourth, Meehan drilled a straight-up three, extending the Ephs' lead to sixteen, with 6:16 to go. Chang hit the dagger, a corner three that made the margin nineteen at 63-44 with less than three minutes left.
Nursing a double-digit lead, the Ephs didn't budge, preventing Wesleyan from going on any sort of sustained run to get back into the game. The Ephs never led by less than ten for the entire second half.
Building off of an impressive fourth quarter in the Vassar game, Chang led the Ephs in scoring with 20 points on just 15 shots, including a 4-for-10 conversion rate from deep. Vostal and junior forward Katie Brule fell just shy of double-doubles, the former two points and the latter one rebound away. Meehan added 12 points and 5 rebounds and led the team in assists with three.
"Emily really stepped up her game today," remarked Manning. "She was attacking in a lot of ways, and that makes her a tough player to defend."
Just two Cardinals eclipsed ten points, and the team converted just 18 of 64 (28.1%) of their field goals. The Ephs' defense dared Wesleyan to shoot outside, and they did, but to no avail, as the Cardinals connected on just 4 of 23 (17.4%) attempts.
Manning was especially proud of how the offense and defense fed off of each other to deliver a complete effort. "We had a balanced scoring attack, and a lot of that was because of the intensity of our defense. We feel like when we're playing really tough defensively, it carries over to our offense."
The Ephs' next game is on December 20th, when they will travel to California to take on Whitman College at 6PM PT (9PM ET).