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February 15, 2004

Williams Knocks Amherst From D3’s #1 Ranking

FROM BUCOLIC WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS. COMES A REBUTTAL ESSAY describing Williams College’s get even game versus their arch rival Amherst College. College Athletics Clips was forced to line up an eye-witness correspondent at the 11th hour, so we are unfortunately a bit tardy with this report. Herewith the account from Correspondent John Fitzgerald (Williams ’03):

Too often in sports, the game itself does not live up to the hype. But in that rare case when it does, when there is a constant buzz in between the roars of the crowd, when every basket feels as though it may be the deciding one, that’s what makes athletics special. Such was the case when Williams and Amherst locked horns for the 186th time in their storied rivalry at Williams’ Chandler Gym in Williamstown on Jan. 24th.

It’s likely that there has never been as much hype surrounding a regular season meeting between these two teams. There was last year’s NCAA quarterfinal game though, which saw Williams march on to the Final Four with its third win of the year over Amherst, while Amherst took solace in their best season in school history. But that game was post-season.

Williams and Amherst entered their January 24th rematch (Amherst had knocked off Williams two weeks earlier, ending Williams’ 29-game win streak) at the respective apex of their basketball history. Each school was coming off its best season in school history. Williams went 31-1 and won the NCAA championship. Amherst, who was the only team to beat Williams a year ago, came into the game undefeated and ranked #1 in the country – a first for Amherst. Williams entered the game ranked #3 in the country, hungry for revenge and looking to extend their home-court win streak to a record-tying 50 games. This is the type of scenario usually reserved for movies.

With the hometown Ephs down 11 at the half, the record-breaking crowd looked to provide some energy. Williams got hot from the outside and inched its way back in the game, but every Eph basket was seemingly answered by an even bigger Lord Jeff basket. When you have won as many games as these two teams have won in recent years, you begin to realize that there is no such thing as a knockout punch. The winner is not so much the last man standing as the one who is ahead when time runs out.

With less than 25 seconds remaining, Williams, down by 3, was forced to foul Amherst’s John Donovan, an 85% free throw shooter. Donovan’s free throw went in and out, and the Ephs raced the ball up the floor. With 13.6 seconds left, Williams Head Coach Dave Paulsen called time-out to set up a final play.

During the time-out, Paulsen looked directly into the eyes of 6’5 junior forward Tucker Kain and asked him if he could make the final shot. Kain answered without speaking and without hesitation, a quick and confident nod of the head. The answer that counted came moments later, as Kain nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game.

That shot, for all intents and purposes, won the game. Kain would go on to score 13 points in overtime on his way to a career-high 29 as the student body erupted into chants echoing his name.

The two teams have now met 6 times in the last two years and Williams has won four, with possibly one or even two more showdowns looming later this year. That would be cause for hype. That would be special.

Williams returned to the top spot in the nation on Feb. 10th. Through Feb. 14, Williams has won 54 straight in Chandler Gym.


Author John Fitzgerald, Williams Class of ‘03, came our way via Williams SID Dick Quinn. He writes a good piece, but the Clips management unfortunately knows nothing about Mr. Fitzgerald. Indeed, we suspect that John Fitzgerald might even be a pen name for Mr. Quinn.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Clips has received word from certain unnamed sources who have insisted on a clarification of a few points made by Author Fitzgerald. First off, our source points out, although Williams has won 4 out of the last 6 games between the two teams, Amherst has won about 10 out of the last 15 hoop contests over the last few years. Also, the source hastens to point out that Williams' second-half comeback was facilitated by the exit of two of Amherst's big men suffering or on bench with injuries. Hmm … Sour grapes here?