WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A stellar offensive performance from the bench and some stingy defending propelled the Williams women's basketball team to a 56-28 win over Skidmore on Tuesday in Chandler Gym. With the win, the Ephs rebounded from their first loss of the year, sustained Saturday against Bridgewater State, and improved to 6-1, while the Thoroughbreds dropped their second straight to a Little Three team and fell to 2-4 overall.
The Ephs took control right from the game's opening possession, when Claire Baecher threw off her defender with a head fake before dishing to Jennie Harding, who tallied the first three points of the night. Although a brief offensive drought then ensued for both sides, it was Harding who got things rolling once more with a beautifully-timed transition pass to Ellen Cook, who caught the ball in stride and dribbled once before cashing in on the layup.
Meanwhile, the Thoroughbred offense sputtered early in the face of some aggressive Eph defending. Indeed, Skidmore missed its first five shots; more problematic for the Thoroughbreds was their inability to find open looks, a circumstance attributable to the high-octane one-on-one coverage that Williams frequently employed.
After nearly five minutes of futility, Skidmore eventually got on the board when Angela Botiba, who led the Thoroughbreds with six points to go along with five rebounds, made a nice spin move down low and drove to the hoop to cut her side's deficit to 7-2.
Unfortunately for Skidmore, that's when Oge Uwanaka took over.
Uwanaka came on as a substitute early in the half and quickly asserted herself as the most effective player on the floor. Offensively, Uwanaka tallied 12 of her 14 points, which led all scorers, and three assists in the first half alone, including 10 in a row for the Ephs. Almost all of Uwanaka's points came under the rim, where she proved to be an impressive physical presence for the Ephs, thus allowing Baecher and many of the Ephs' other regulars to sit for most of the second half.
Uwanaka found just as much success on the other side of the floor and held Botiba, Skidmore's leader in points and rebounds per game coming into the evening, to below-her-average totals in both categories. The largest cheer of the night undoubtedly came with 2:39 remaining, when Uwanaka managed to get her feet set and absorb a Botiba drive for a charge, a play the knocked Uwanaka to the floor but brought the Eph bench to its feet and earned her the praise of Coach Pat Manning.
"Oge was awesome," said Manning afterward. "She's such an explosive player, and to have her energy is great. She was a force on both sides of the ball tonight, something I was really excited to see. The boost she gave was just incredible."
While the Thoroughbreds managed to close the gap to within eight when Molly McLaughlin swished a three with 9:22 remaining in the period to make it 20-12, the Ephs kept the pedal to the metal for the rest of the half and went into the break with an 18-point lead after Danny Rainer put back a missed layup from Uwanaka to make it 34-16.
The second half proved remarkably uneventful, as the Ephs quickly put the game away in the opening minutes. Baecher found Rainer with a pair of near-identical over-the-top passes in the paint to stretch the lead to 20, then made an incisive run towards the baseline to collect a precise pass from Cook and bank the ball in for a 40-18 Williams lead.
Dani DeGregory briefly breathed some life into the Thoroughbreds when she had a nice drive for an "and-one" to cut the deficit to 23, but it was too little, too late for Skidmore, which scored just 12 points in the second half.
All in all, it was an excellent bounce-back performance after Saturday's heartbreaking 61-60 defeat in the finale of the Williams Holiday Classic.
"We were disappointed in our defending on Saturday, but today I was really proud of the team's defense," said Manning, who emphasized how well her players meshed as a defensive unit before addressing the game's implications for the rest of the season.
"We want to build to get better every game and take the season one game at a time. But this could be a great springboard for us."
Skidmore will conclude its fall campaign on Saturday when it travels to Vermont to take on Middlebury. The Ephs will also play their last game of the semester on Saturday at New England Small College Athletic Conference foe Wesleyan in a game that will not count toward the conference standings. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m.