Preview: Amherst vs. Williams Basketball
Contact: Ben Badua
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - The Amherst men’s and women’s basketball teams will head to Chandler Gymnasium on Wednesday, Jan. 22 for a Little Three showdown with archrival Williams. The women’s game will tip-off at 6 p.m. followed by the men’s game at 8 p.m.
Live statistics and a webcast will be available for tomorrow’s doubleheader courtesy of Williams Sports Information.
NO. 8 AMHERST vs. NO. 15 WILLIAMS
While Amherst won 11 in a row against Williams from 2009-13 things started to turn around for the Ephs last season with the Jeffs holding just a 3-2 edge over their rivals over the last five meetings. Earlier this year, the Purple & White defeated Williams 78-62 in LeFrak in a game that will count towards the conference standings. While considered a Little Three game, Wednesday’s affair will not factor into either teams’ league ledger.
The Ephs ended their 11-game losing streak to the Jeffs with a 71-51 victory at Chandler Gym last season, snapping Amherst’s NESCAC-record 41-game conference win streak in the process. Amherst would edge out Williams 53-38 in the league title game, but the Ephs took the final meeting at the NCAA consolation match, 57-53.
Up 30-25 after the first 20 minutes, Amherst used a strong second half to pull away from Williams, 78-62. Cheyenne Pritchard ’16 scored 17 of her career-high 19 points in the second period to lead the charge, while Megan Robertson ’15 had 17 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four steals. Ali Doswell ’17 connected on six of her 11 shot attempts to also finish with 17 points, while Marley Giddins ’16 posted 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting with six boards.
Ellen Cook ’15 paved the way for the Ephs with 24 points, going 7-for-13 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Kellie Macdonald ’15 was an efficient 6-of-11, tallying 14 points and seven rebounds, while Oge Uwanaka ’16 was the only other Eph in double figures with 13 points and six boards.
The last time these two teams met, Williams was without its biggest low post presence, Katie Litman ’16. This time around, it might be Amherst that suffers from a lack in size with Megan Robertson ’15 playing just three minutes the last two games. Prior to suffering an injury against Tufts, Robertson led the team in scoring (12.9 ppg), while ranking amongst the league leaders in rebounds (8.7).
Entering Wednesday’s contest, Amherst ranks first in the league in points per game (71.9), three-point percentage (35.7) and rebounding margin (+8.6), while sitting second in field goal percentage (42.2). Enjoying a breakout season, Marley Giddins ’16 is averaging 11.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while Cheyenne Pritchard ’16 has done it all as one of the squad’s defensive stalwarts, averaging 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Second in the NESCAC in three-point percentage, Pritchard was 5-of-6 from behind the arc in the second half of mid-January’s match-up against Williams, scoring 17 of her career-high 19 points during the frame.
Making an immediate impact in their first seasons in Purple & White are Hannah Peterson and Ali Doswell. Averaging 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, Peterson erupted for 30 points in an 88-54 win over Bates on Sunday, while Doswell has averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in her 15 appearances.
Splitting time at point guard, Haley Zwecker ’16 and Jaimie Renner ’17 have combined to average nearly 13 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, while Savannah Holness ’15 gives the Jeffs some quality time in the post, averaging 5.9 points and 4.4 in 13.6 minutes per game.
While Amherst leads the conference in several offensive categories, Williams heads into Wednesday’s match-up as the league’s statistical leader in opponent field goal (28.9) and three point (22.7) percentage, while sitting second in points allowed (50.6). Ellen Cook ’15 leads the Eph attack, averaging 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Kellie Macdonald ’15 gives Williams a solid second option, averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per outing, while reigning NESCAC Player of the Week Lauren McCall ’17 provides a spark off the bench. Over her last two games, the first-year has averaged 20.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, shooting 72.7 percent from the floor and 69.2 percent from three. Over the course of the season, McCall has averaged 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in 16 appearances.
NO. 6 AMHERST vs. NO. 9 WILLIAMS
Amherst has won each of the past six meetings between the storied rivals, including an 84-73 decision over then-No. 5 Williams on Jan. 11 in LeFrak Gymnasium. Last season, the Jeffs defeated the Ephs twice during the regular season before securing a hard-fought 74-73 last second victory in the NESCAC Championship game. Williams’ last triumph over Amherst came in 2011 with a 77-71 victory over the Jeffs in the NCAA Elite 8.
Winning on its home floor, Amherst picked up the first showdown with Williams earlier this season by an 84-73 margin to remain unbeaten in NESCAC play. While Wednesday night’s affair will count towards the Little Three standings, it will not be considered part of league action.
Aaron Toomey ’14 led the Jeffs in mid-January, finishing with a double-double thanks to 16 points and 10 assists. Connor Green ’16 and Tom Killian ’14 each netted a game-high 23 points, with Killian also adding six rebounds and matching a career-high with five steals. Also helping out on the glass, Green pulled down eight boards, while Ben Pollack ’16 finished with seven points and nine rebounds.
Four Ephs scored in double figures the last time these two squads met, led by Michael Mayer ’14, who posted 18 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor Epley ’14 scored 15 on 6-of-14 shooting, while Duncan Robinson ’17 and Daniel Wohl ’15 chipped in with 12 apiece.
Holding a 40-31 rebounding edge, the Jeffs finished with a slim 12-11 advantage in second chance points and 42-36 margin in points in the paint. Squaring off with one of the conference’s most efficient offenses, Amherst held Williams well below its season scoring average, while limiting the Ephs to just a 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) showing from behind the arc.
NESCAC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Aaron Toomey ’14 and Duncan Robinson ’17 are the reigning conference Players of the Week. Capturing his second-consecutive honor and ninth of his career, Toomey averaged 21.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in a 3-0 stretch for the Jeffs. He had 16 points and six rebounds against Wesleyan before scoring 22 of his 28 points in the second half against Tufts. During the game, he became Amherst’s all-time leading scorer, passing the former mark of 1,708 set by Steve Zieja ’03. Now with 1,734 career points, he also holds Amherst’s career marks for free throws (518) and three pointers (240) made.
Robinson averaged 25.5 points per game, while shooting 85.0 percent from the floor (17-for-20) and 76.9 percent (10-for-13) from three to help the Ephs to a pair of NESCAC wins over Bowdoin and Colby. Against the Mules, he was a perfect 9-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-3 from the three and 6-of-6 from the line. His 27 points were a career-high.
Wednesday’s game will feature two of the league’s most potent offenses with the Jeffs and Ephs ranking one-two in several statistical categories including scoring (A -1st, 89.1 ppg/W-2nd 84.3 ppg), field goal percentage (W-1st, 51.1%/A-2nd 49.2%) and three-point shooting (W-1st, 40.6%/A-2nd, 37.7%).
Led by Aaron Toomey ’14 and Connor Green ’16 Amherst boasts the league’s top two scorers. Averaging a conference-high 21.2 points per game, Toomey is shooting 50.0 percent (88-of-176) from the field and nearly 40 percent (43-of-109) from three, while knocking down 87.6 percent (99-of-113) of his free throws. Also leading the NESCAC in assists per game (6.3), he sits second in the conference in steals per outing (2.3), while also pulling down 4.5 rebounds.
A talented scorer, Green is averaging 20.8 points per game, while hitting nearly 49 percent of his shot attempts (96-of-197), including almost 39 percent (38-of-98) from behind the arc. An explosive swingman, Green has scored in double-digits in every game this season, netting at least 20 points eight times, while scoring 31 against Newbury in late November and a personal-best 42 against Div. II Nova Southeastern during the team’s winter break trip to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Also giving the Jeffs some punch are seniors David Kalema, Tom Killian and Connor Gach. Scoring 18 of his 20 points in the second half against Bates last Sunday, Kalema is averaging 11.4 points per game, while Killian has done a little bit of everything, averaging 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals. Gach currently tops the conference in three-point shooting (57.7 percent), going 4-for-5 from long distance against the Bobcats to finish with a career-high 12 points.
Giving Amherst some valuable playing time on the low block are David George ’17 and Ben Pollack ’16. Missing several games due to injury earlier in the year, Pollack has returned to the form that made him a key contributor last season, averaging nearly nine points and six rebounds per game. George has made his biggest impact on the defensive end, matching the team lead in rebounds (6.1), while also tying for first in the NESCAC in blocks per game (2.5). Showing off his potential as an interior defender in mid-December, he swatted a career-high seven shots against regional rival Babson.
Williams has also showed off a balanced attack this season, with five different players averaging double digits. First-year Duncan Robinson ’17 leads the squad in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game, while shooting an efficient 58.1 percent from the floor, 50.7 percent from three and 91.1 percent from the charity stripe. Michael Mayer ’14, who ranks among the league leaders in rebounding (8.1 rpg), sits second on the Ephs in scoring, netting 15.5 points per outing.
Taylor Epley ’14 remains a threat as a solid perimeter player averaging 14.7 points, while shooting 48.0 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from long distance. Daniel Wohl ’15 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 are also averaging double digits with 12.9 and 12.3 points per game, respectively.