UPDATE: Williams loses.

UPDATE: Williams down by 5 with 14 minutes left.

Dave Fehr provides this analysis on mens basketball after their NCAA tournament 3rd round win last night.

The Ephs seem to have shaken their slump. After opening 15-0, they were mediocre thru the end of the regular season, including horrible losses to Bowdoin and Middlebury. After a lost weekend to end the regular season (home losses to Amherst and Hamilton), we got much better; played well in the NESCAC QF win over Trinity, lost to Amherst (of course) at Hamilton in the NESCAC SF, then hosted the first two NCAA games and destroyed two tiny teams by 26 and 34 points.

On to the Sweet 16 at Hamilton vs 1-loss, nationally second ranked Whitman. I was pretty confident going into this one (rare for me) because (1) Whitman plays a weak schedule, (2) I was unimpressed with them at the Final Four two years ago when they blew a 25-point lead and lost to Babson, but especially (3) because they were REALLY tiny: Williams starters had a 4-1/2 inch height advantage at every position. We knew Whitman pressed and stole the ball and ran like hell but I can’t remember a Williams team (or any team, for that matter) turning the ball over 29 times and still winning! Although our size did result in a slight rebounding advantage, where it really helped was in shooting: Whitman was just too small to contest our shots. The Ephs shot an astounding 67.4% from the field (75% in second half), 63.6% from the arc (71% 1st half) and went 19-24 from the line where we’ve struggled in recent weeks. Shoot like that and you can overcome 29 turnovers – though I don’t recommend it as an ongoing strategy. We built a 14 point lead with 11 minutes to play, almost lost it to their press, but hung on to win 84-81. Of note: Our bench, pretty quiet lately, played 66 minutes, scored 26 points and got 18 rebounds. VERY impressive.

How to beat Christopher Newport tonight? They are not tiny like our first three NCAA opponents, but we will still have a size advantage. Their starters go 5-10, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7; ours 6-3, 6-5, 6-7, 6-8, 6-8. Their first three off the bench: 6-0, 6-3, 6-4; ours 6-5, 6-8 and 6-10. However, the Captains are an excellent rebounding team despite the fact they’re not huge. They outrebounded Hamilton by a whopping 19 and one kid, #31 Ellis, had 17 boards. Ephs are not a great rebounding team so we’ll have to fight to hold our own. CNU is not deep; 7-man rotation and last night their starters played 39, 39, 36, 35 and 28. So fatigue in the second game of a back-to-back? We’ll see. They have three stars: #3 Carter (16.5 & 7.1), Ellis (10.4 & 6.5) and #20 Aigner (15.6 & 4.2).

Can we beat them ? Yes. While it’s unrealistic to expect Ephs to shoot 67 and 64 percent again tonight, it’s also unrealistic to expect us to turn it over 29 times! We should not fall in love with the three: last night we took only 11 so did the majority of our scoring inside (42 points in the paint). That could continue tonight with our size advantage. It will help that the game’s on a neutral court, albeit a court we played on last night and also two weeks ago.

Our cold spell is over; four of our last five games we’ve been very hot. The Final Four would not surprise me (that’s not a prediction; I won’t predict wins, I said we COULD beat them). On a personal note: Williams has been to eight Final Fours and I’ve been to seven of them . The one I missed? 2003 when we won it all! Williams should do all it can to keep me away from Ft. Wayne next weekend.

With a win tonight, the Ephs would be headed to the Final Four next weekend in Indiana.

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