Posting its largest margin of victory over its Little Three rival Williams since Feb. 2, 1985, Wesleyan got 15 points from top scorer Shasha Brown '13 (#11, photo by SteveMcLaughlinPhotography.com), 13 of them in the first half, en route to a resounding 66-43 win Fri., Jan. 13, avenging an 83-68 loss at Williams in a non-conference meeting back in November. The Cardinals ended an 11-game losing streak vs. the Ephs dating back to Nov. 21, 2006. Wesleyan then hosted undefeated Middlebury, the top-ranked team in Division III, in its next game Sat., Jan. 14, and took the Panthers down the the wire before falling by a narrow 65-62 count.
After grabbing an early 9-1 lead, only to see Williams come storming back take a 17-12 lead, Wesleyan ended the half on a 30-9 run to assume a 16-point halftime margin, 42-26. Wesleyan led by no less than 16 in the second half and by as many as 25, 59-34, with 7:49 to play. Over the final 11 minutes of the first half, Wesleyan shot 12-of-19 from the field and 4-for-5 at the line with just one turnover while holding Williams to 3-of-11 shooting from the floor, 2-for-4 at the line with six turnovers. Jason Mendell '12 had all seven of his points in the game during the 30-9 stretch to pace Wesleyan along with Julian Harris '14, also with seven. Brown had six points and Mike Callaghan '13 added five during the decisive burst. Callaghan finished with 13 points while Derick Beresford '13 chipped in with 10 for Wesleyan, which also had a 36-28 margin on the boards and committed just 11 turnovers to 18 by the Ephs.
The Ephs, ranked 12th nationally in Division III, were limited to their lowest point total of the year and just above half the team's average of 81.2 points per game this year. Prior to this outing, Williams had scored no less than 66 points in a game in 2011-12. Entering the game shooting better than 50 percent from the field, Williams was held to 31 percent on the night while Wesleyan hit 45 percent.
Defeating Williams by more than 20 points for the first time since a 97-68 win in Middletown in 1985, Wesleyan had an 84-64 victory in Middletown Feb. 4, 1989, the last time the Cardinals downed the Ephs by at least 20 points.
Facing Middlebury, Wesleyan saw the Panthers pull away to the game's largest lead of nine points, 60-51, with 3:52 to play and withstand a Wesleyan rally in the closing moments to come away with the 65-62 decision, improving the Panthers to 14-0 overall, 4-0 in NESCAC play.
Holding a tenuous 48-47 advantage with 12:39 on the clock, Middlebury got a three–pointer and a bucket to extend its lead to 53-47 with 9:27 left. When the Panthers canned a trey at the 6:25 mark, Middlebury led 56-49. But after a free throw made it 60-51 for the visitors at 3:52, Wesleyan scored on six consecutive possessions with Beresford accounting for six points. When Callaghan scored on a layup off the sixth assist of the contest by Brown with :16 to go, Wesleyan trimmed the margin to a lone point, 63-62. Middlebury then sank a pair at the line to bump the margin back to three, 65-62, with :08.1 showing. Looking for a three-pointer to tie, Wesleyan never got the chance as Middlebury took a smart foul with :03.4 to go. Brown missed the first attempt, then purposely missed the second, but Middlebury cleared the board and tossed the ball the length of the floor to kill the remaining seconds.
Neither team led by more than four points during a nip-and-tuck first half which ended in Wesleyan's favor, 34-33. The Cardinals pulled out to their largest lead of the game early in the second period, 42-38, before Middlebury took the lead for good on a three-pointer to break a 43-43 deadlock at the 15:40 mark, putting the Panthers ahead, 46-43.
Callaghan led all scorers with 18 and had a team-high five rebounds. Brown and Beresford each had a dozen points for the Cardinals.
Both teams shot well from the field as Middlebury canned 55 percent while Wesleyan hit 51 percent. Wesleyan faltered at the line, however, making just 5-of-13 while Middlebury was good for 14-of-20, the difference in the game.
Wesleyan takes on its fifth nationally ranked opponent in its last seven games when it closes out Little Three play for the year Tues., Jan. 17, hosting Amherst. The teams played to a 66-64 Lord Jeff win just 11 days earlier at the home of the #6 ranked team.