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Rivalry Weekend

This weekend in Williamstown, the tenth ranked Ephs take on number fourteen Amherst in men’s ice hockey on Friday night, and in men’s and women’s basketball in a Saturday double-header.   Both Eph swimming teams travel to Amherst on Saturday.  Given that this is the first weekend of Winter Study and all ten teams in action are highly regarded (eight of the ten are nationally ranked, with one of the two exceptions, Williams women’s basketball, also having a very strong season at 10-3), expect a raucous environment at Chandler and Lansing Chapman and some exciting, hotly-contested match-ups.  All of the rivalry contests will be viewable via webcast (although the Williams home webcasts are all pay-per-view, darn you budget crunch!).  Amherst previews all of the match-ups here.

Men’s hockey has its strongest squad in years, led by two stellar goalies, Ryan Purdy ’12 and Marc Pulde ’10.  The roster was recently bolstered by mid-season Canadian import Mark Lyons ’13.

The men’s basketball game should be particularly fun.  In a storied rivalry between two of the top D-III programs of the last two decades, Amherst has had a major edge of late, but the Ephs have turned things around under new coach Mike Maker, toppling Amherst in a regular season contest last year for the first time since 2004.  Incredibly, the Ephs still haven’t beaten Amherst at Chandler since the same year, enduring a five game home losing streak after beating Amherst five straight times at Chandler.  The team and crowd (many of whom this year sport “Sixth Man” t-shirts) will certainly be pumped up for the game.   Amherst and Williams are evenly regarded, ranked ninth and eleventh respectively, so expect the game to go down to the wire.  And if nothing else, it should be an entertaining game, as Williams is an offensively-minded team that puts up an astonishing 91 points per game, and Amherst is no slouch in the scoring department either.

The Ephs are usually paced by leading scorers Blake Schultz ’10 and James Wang ’12, who combined for 53 in the Ephs’ most recent victory, but the center combo of Troy Whittington ’11 and Joe Geoghegan ’10 form the best post duo in NESCAC, veteran starters Alex Rubin ’10 and Harlan Dodson ’11 can both light it up from three when hot (Rubin in particular has been on fire the last few weeks), and savvy frosh point guard Nate Robertson has really come on of late, emerging as a NESCAC rookie of the year candidate as his playing time continues to increase.   Amherst is led by two veteran stars, do-everything point guard Conor Meehan ’11, who almost never takes a breather, and ace shooter Steven Wheeler ’10, each of whom has had big games against Williams in the past.

Women’s hoops will face an even stiffer challenge as Amherst is undefeated, ranked second in the nation, and has all five starters back from last year’s Final Four squad.  Women’s hoops, while a major underdog, is much improved thanks to five stellar frosh in the rotation, as they have already (I believe — I realize last year was rough, but it seems to have been completely erased from the Sports Information website :)) won more games in the fall than they managed to win all of last season.  You can catch up with both basketball squads on the Sports Information basketball show.

For anyone watching any of the five match-ups via webcast (or better yet, live!), use this thread to post updates.

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#1 Comment By nuts On January 8, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

I wish I could attend the basketball game tonight; arch rival, evenly ranked nationally, high scoring offenses … it’ll be a barn burner.

#2 Comment By JeffZ On January 8, 2010 @ 2:24 pm

Hockey is tonight, hoops is tomorrow, nuts, but in all events I agree — wish I could be there!

#3 Comment By Ronit On January 8, 2010 @ 2:27 pm

Hmm… doesn’t look like video streaming is even available for Men’s Basketball (which should be an amazing game)… only audio streaming:

http://athletics.williams.edu/sports/General_News_Items/WATCH_-_HEAR_Ephs_vs._Amherst_in_5_events_Jan._8_-_9

#4 Comment By JeffZ On January 8, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

I BELIEVE there will be video, but it will cost 15 bucks:

http://www.teamline.cc/sportpage?teamcode=0126&eventcode=6

#5 Comment By nuts On January 8, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

@JeffZ: Of course. Thanks Jeff.

#6 Comment By jeffz On January 9, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

Congrats to Williams men’s hoops for pulling out a dramatic win over Amherst at Chandler. Williams was in control but Amherst changed strategy for a dramatic comeback. Just when it seemed things were falling apart, Troy Whittington had a monster dunk while fouled, igniting the crowd and the game-clinching run.

Women’s hoops and men’s ice hockey were not as fortunate, but women’s swimming dominated the Jeffs at Amherst, so overall, another great (and even) rivalry weekend.

#7 Comment By Ronit On January 9, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

@jeffz: Thanks for the update. Sounds like it was a great game.

#8 Comment By nuts On January 9, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

@jeffz: Thanks Jeff.

Sounds even better when they say it: Who won?

#9 Comment By Parent ’12 On January 9, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

@jeffz:

Congratulations to the basketball team, which I appreciate all the more from reading your intro in the original post.

What was Amherst’s change in strategy that led to the drama?

#10 Comment By jeffz On January 10, 2010 @ 6:22 am

In the first half, Williams’ James Wang penetrated at will, scoring a ton in the paint and feeding guys for wide open looks. He is much faster than anyone on Amherst. Also, Amherst’s big guys struggled to get anything going at all inside.

Amherst came out with a different starting line-up, playing a perimeter guy (frosh Will Workman, who will be VERY good, unorthodox player who the Ephs will be more ready for next time) at the four, and he gave the Ephs’ all sort of trouble, playing very aggressively and scoring lots of points and really exploiting the Williams defense. Then, Amherst really extended its perimeter defense out and started to overplay, shutting down the Ephs guards (four very good Eph perimeter guys barely got any shot attempts in the second half) and earning lots of turnovers. Ephs seemed a bit flummoxed for awhile until they finally were able to work the ball inside, where Geoghegan and Whittington were frequently open or at best single-covered with the guards playing so aggressively, and Amherst didn’t have a prayer of handling either one of them one-on-one. That is what secured the win for the Ephs, both those guys were money in the second half. Ephs also got clutch three pointers to extend the lead from Alex Rubin and James Wang once the Jeffs started paying a bit more attention to the inside game.

Down the stretch it was bit a rocky as the Ephs’ gave up an 11 point lead, due to three things: two crazy deep 3’s from Amherst, two missed front-ends on one-and-one’s, and a few very curious non-calls from the refs (Amherst fouled the same guy on back-to-back plays, both before an inbounds whistle so no time elapsed, one time apparently running him over, and there was no intentional foul called either time). Also, Williams probably should have fouled Wheeler up four rather than giving him a good (albeit very deep) look from three to bring the Jeffs’ within one, but that is debatable. Still, for all but about four minutes when Amherst made its big run and before Williams could adjust to Amherst’s changed line-up and strategy, the Ephs played very well. Ephs got a little lucky as well as Amherst shot 27 percent from the foul line (!) for the game — give the home crowd credit for rattling the Jeffs. It will be even tougher to win at Amherst, but I think Williams will also be more ready for what Amherst throws at them.

#11 Comment By jeffz On January 10, 2010 @ 6:24 am

By the way, congrats to men’s swimming, whose narrow victory was the rubber match in the rivalry weekend, with the Ephs winning 3/5 contests …

http://athletics.williams.edu/sports/mswimdive/2009-10/News/01-09-10_Amherst