WATERVILLE, ME – In their most complete performance in several games, the Williams Ephs (13-4, 2-2 NESCAC) shined on both offense and defense in an 80-48 win over the Colby Mules (5-10, 1-3 NESCAC).
The Ephs snapped a three-game losing streak by catching fire on offense early and then suffocating the Mules with their defense. After exploding for 47 first-half points, Williams clamped down on the Colby offense and allowed just 17 in the second half. The Ephs' 80 points marked their most since a 98-50 win at Delaware Valley on December 18th.
"When we keep the pace that we want, we're able to wear teams down, and that's our goal," remarked Eph head coach Pat Manning following the victory. "We played with great intensity today."
Williams' grit was especially apparent when guard Mikaela Topper '21 cut through the Colby defense in the first half with under five seconds to go. After her reverse layup went in and out, Topper hustled to the ball, grabbed her own rebound, and beat the buzzer with another layup to put the Ephs up 16 at the half.
"Mikaela did a great job controlling the pace," commented Manning. "She also did a great job defensively, and it really sparked our offense. Her play made a huge difference and fired everybody else up."
Topper, who scored 18 points on 5-for-13 shooting, wasn't the only Eph to stand out today. Four different Ephs scored in double digits, and both Maddy Mandyck '22 (10 points, 9 rebounds) and Katie Brule '20 (9 points, 8 rebounds) fell just short of double-doubles. The Mules' Ainsley Burns, Jane MacKerron, and Alisha Aube combined for 31 of Colby's 48 points, but shot just 11-of-35 from the field.
The Ephs and Mules traded blows early, but Williams pulled ahead by the end of the first quarter. The Ephs led just 15-14 with 2:54 left to go in the first, but then scored nine straight points, six of them by Mikaela Topper, to extend their lead to ten. At the end of the first, Williams had a 27-18 advantage – their best start on offense in weeks. Williams' offense wasn't quite as explosive in the second, but they made up for it by holding the Mules to just 13 points. Topper's buzzer-beating layup broke a two-minute scoring drought for the Ephs, who led by as many as 18 points in the quarter.
After struggling behind the arc against Bowdoin yesterday, the Ephs responded in the first half with six three-pointers and held the Mules to just one. Topper enjoyed an especially strong first half, logging 14 points and 3 three-pointers on 5-for-10 shooting. Mandyck added eight more points but also got into early foul trouble with three first-half fouls. On the boards, the Ephs were more or less even, grabbing 15 rebounds compared to 16 for the Mules.
The Ephs' defense shined in the third, allowing just six points for the entire quarter and forcing the Mules to take several off-balance shots. Though Colby made the switch to an aggressive man defense and successfully stymied the Ephs for the majority of the quarter, Williams got their offensive rhythm back in the final two minutes of the third with an 8-0 run. Katie Brule '20 made a layup, Devin Biesbrock '23 hit a three-pointer, and Dauk capped the run off with a buzzer-beating three, giving the Ephs their largest lead to that point at 24.
The Ephs kept their foot on the gas in the fourth and extended their lead even further. After scoring 14 of the first 16 points of the quarter and taking a game-high 34-point lead, the Ephs rested their starters for the final five minutes and cruised to a much-needed win.
Williams showed today why defense and rebounding are the team's biggest strengths. On defense, the Ephs held the Mules to just 18 of 56 (32.1%) shooting, including just 3 of 20 (15.0%) from deep. And on the boards, the Ephs outrebounded the Mules 41-31, including a 26-15 margin in the second half. "We committed to [defense] today," said Manning. "We knew that we hadn't played great defense the last couple of games, and we didn't rebound particularly well either. Those were on our mind today especially, and I was really happy with everyone's overall effort."
The offense was not as efficient in the second half as it was in the first, but Williams still shot 31 of 69 (44.9%) from the field and 9 of 24 (37.5%) from behind the arc. The Ephs also showed their depth with 26 bench points, with Dauk and Gabby Martin '21 enjoying particularly strong games off the bench.
Next Wednesday at 7:00PM, the Ephs rematch Amherst in their Little Three game, looking to avenge their 62-51 loss to the Mammoths on January 11th.