AMHERST, Mass. – Jordan Bonner '19 scored 15 points and Nathan Krill '18 dropped 12 but the fourth-seeded Wesleyan men's basketball team lost a defensive battle against second-seeded Williams in the NESCAC Championship game Sunday afternoon in LeFrak Gymnasium at Amherst College, 69-58.
The nationally-ranked No. 14 Cardinals are now 21-6 overall—the 21 wins are a program record—and will await their NCAA Tournament fate when the selection show airs Monday, Feb. 26 at 12:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. The eighth-ranked Ephs improve to 22-5 and earn the NESCAC's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Both teams struggled offensively early on as the Ephs were held scoreless for the first five minutes of the game until Bobby Casey hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the deficit to three.
- The scoring picked up from both teams around the 14-minute mark and a pair of 3-pointers from freshmen Antone Walker and Austin Hutcherson lifted the Cardinals lead to five with 13:09 to play.
- Williams responded with back-to-back treys of its own from Cole Teal and James Heskett, respectively, to give the Ephs their first lead of the game at the 10:13 mark, 13-12.
- Minutes later, Mike Greenman extended Williams' lead to seven with back-to-back 3-pointers as the Ephs held a 21-14 advantage with 5:58 remaining.
- With just over five minutes to play in the half, Jordan Bonner '19 drove the baseline and threw down an emphatic one-handed dunk to cut the deficit to six, 24-18.
- Williams led by as much as 10 with 2:33 to play but a layup by JR Bascom '18 with 00:55 on the clock cut the deficit to eight before the break.
- Bonner and Hutcherson led Wesleyan with five points each in the first half while Bobby Casey totaled eight to lead all players.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- Both teams came out strong to start the second. After a three from Henry Feinberg gave the Ephs an 11-point lead, Bonner responded with a trey of his own on the other end. However, Greenman hit one from downtown just 13 seconds later.
- The game went back-and-forth often in the opening minutes with the Ephs maintaining a double-digit lead.
- James Heskett and Walker exchanged points on four-straight possessions roughly halfway through the half before both teams went cold offensively for several minutes.
- With 8:16 to play, Bonner cut the deficit to 10 with a fast break layup to force a Williams timeout. On the Ephs' ensuing possession, Krill deflected a pass by Casey which led to another Wesleyan fast break as the senior forward took a pass from Jordan Sears '18 and converted a three-point play to get the Cardinals within seven, 49-42.
- After a pair of free throws by Williams extended the lead back to nine, Bonner hit a fadeaway 3-pointer in the corner to cut the deficit to six with 6:16 to play.
- With 5:10 remaining, Heskett put the Ephs back up by double-digits with a strong take to the basket as they led 58-48.
- Trailing by 11 with 1:56 to play, Walker found Krill in the corner in front of the Wesleyan bench as the senior knocked down the three to cut the deficit to eight, 62-54.
- After a pair of missed free throws from Greenberg, Sears connected on a wide-open layup to get within six with 1:22 on the clock. However, that proved to be the closest Wesleyan would get the rest of the way as the Ephs knocked down their foul shots late in the game to seal the win.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Bascom was dominant on the boards, pulling in a game-high 16. He also scored six points. Walker added nine off the bench for the Cardinals and Kevin O'Brien '19 and Sears dished out three assists each.
- Heskett led all scorers with 17 points while Matthew Karpowicz added 14. Greenman registered a game-high five assists and Heskett totaled three. Teal and Casey led the Ephs in rebounding with six each.
- Sunday's championship game featured just one lead change as Williams' bench proved to be the difference, outscoring Wesleyan's 32-13. The Cardinals held a 47-39 edge in rebounding.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
- Today's game was just the second meeting between Wesleyan and Williams in postseason play and the first since the 2010 quarterfinals. Williams was the top-seed and went on to win the conference championship that season.
- The two archrivals split their regular-season matchups with the Cardinals claiming a thrilling 72-67 overtime win on the road on Dec. 2, while the Ephs took a 76-68 overtime win in Middletown on Jan. 5.