SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – In a low-scoring affair and their first match of 2020, the Williams Ephs (11-0) prevailed over the Skidmore Thoroughbreds (2-8) by a 56-45 score.
It certainly wasn't pretty, but the Ephs managed to squeak by the Thoroughbreds, outscoring them in each of the last three quarters. Williams came out rusty to start the game, lacking their usual defensive intensity and suffering from frequent miscommunications on both ends of the floor. But the Ephs' play, especially on defense, improved in the second half.
"Today was kind of an odd day. The defensive intensity has been a trademark of this team up to this point, but we didn't really get it until the third quarter," said Eph head coach Pat Manning following the win.
Morgan Dauk '21 had another standout game, leading the Ephs with 19 points to go with her six rebounds. Katie Brule '20 and Maddy Mandyck '22 also had strong games on the boards, grabbing 10 and 9 rebounds, respectively. Jessica Centore and Kate McCarney paced Skidmore, scoring 24 of the team's 45 points.
Skidmore raced out to early 8-2 and 12-8 leads, with Centore leading the Thoroughbreds with six points in the quarter. Despite not taking the lead or making a three-pointer at any point during the first quarter, Williams still trailed by just 1, with the score being 12-11.
The Ephs took the lead for the first time on a layup by Devin Biesbrock '23 to make it a 13-12 game with 9:47 to go in the second quarter. That lead change turned out to be the only one of the game, as Dauk and Emily Chang '20 each added makes to give Williams a five-point lead. The Ephs never let the Thoroughbreds within two points for the rest of the game, and finished the half with a six-point, 27-21 lead.
Still, Manning was not thrilled with the team's first-half performance. When asked which particular issues were holding the Ephs back, she cited communication – specifically, the lack of volume and intensity the Ephs had typically brought to the floor this season.
But in the third quarter, the Ephs stepped up their play on both ends of the floor, extending their lead to as much as 12 and finishing the quarter with an 8-point advantage. Then, Williams opened the fourth with a 9-2 run – in which four different Ephs made shots – to break the game open. After the run, the Ephs maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.
Dauk especially shined in the second half, scoring a team-leading 11 second-half points, including 7 in the fourth quarter. Her only three-pointer of the game was an important one, coming on the fourth-quarter, 9-2 run and giving the Ephs their largest lead of the game to that point, at 13.
The Ephs struggled with efficiency, going just 24 for 63 (38.1%) on field goals, including just a 4 for 17 (23.5%) clip on three-pointers. Additionally, despite an improved effort by the defense, Skidmore outrebounded Williams 20-19 in the second half.
But in the end, the Ephs' second-half renaissance was enough to put them on top today. "We adjusted at halftime," remarked Manning. "Our defensive intensity was much better in the second half, and as the game progressed, we did get better. That's the important part."
Next Tuesday at 7:00PM, the Ephs look to extend their winning streak on the road against WPI.