Heading into the weekend, the Cardinals were tied with both Bates and Tufts for sixth in the NESCAC standings (a 2-7 stretch over winter break had slowed Wesleyan down). However, after their win over Conn College on Jan. 25 and their success this weekend, the Cards have jumped into a tie for fourth with a 9-10 overall record and a 3-3 mark in NESCAC play.
Wesleyan and Bates traded blows throughout the first half of Friday’s game; neither team led by more than three points. In the second half, however, the Cardinals went on an impressive 23-7 run, fueled by strong inside play from Rashid Epps ’16 and five three-pointers from four different players.
Trailing by 14 with fewer than 5 minutes to go in regulation, the Bobcats mounted a comeback, forcing 4 turnovers in just over 3 minutes as they cut the lead to 3. With 50 seconds remaining, Bates buried a trey to tie the game. The two teams traded misses as they tried for the win in regulation, forcing an overtime period.
The teams went back and forth through the first three minutes of OT until BJ Davis ’16 hit two free throws to put the Cardinals up one point with 1:59 remaining. After a steal by Joseph Kuo ’17 on the ensuing Bobcat possession, Captain Zach Lynch ’14 hit a jumper to put Wes ahead for good.
“I think we just had to regroup,” said guard Harry Rafferty ’17 on his team’s overtime performance. “I think it shows a lot about our team’s perseverance. A lot of teams wouldn’t be able to bounce back from [such a quick comeback], and instead would kind of crumble in overtime. But we pushed through it, and guys did a great job of stepping up.”
Davis and Epps led Wesleyan in scoring with 22 and 16 points, respectively. The two combined to shoot 14-24 from the floor, while Epps picked up 9 rebounds in the win. Davis was a perfect 5-5 from the foul line on the evening, while also hitting 3 shots from beyond the arc.
Against Tufts on Saturday, the Cardinals displayed an extremely impressive shooting performance in the first half, knocking down 7 of 11 threes on their way to 64 percent shooting from the field.
Six different Cardinals finished with double-digits in scoring, most notably Jack Mackey ’16, who hit 6 shots from deep for 18 of his team-leading 20 points. Davis also contributed 16 points and 5 assists, including another perfect 5-5 effort from the charity stripe. After this past weekend, Davis has hit 24 consecutive free throws over the last 3 games.
With injuries sidelining several frontcourt threats, Wesleyan has relied on its depth through its last few games. While last year’s Cardinal offense ran extensively through three main players—Shasha Brown ’13, Derick Beresford ’13, Mike Callaghan ’13—this year’s squad has already seen six different players lead the team in scoring in individual games.
“On any given night, someone could step up and perform,” Rafferty said. “For instance, against Bates, our senior captain Zach Lynch gave us some big minutes down the stretch. Some big defensive stops, a couple important baskets, it’s that type of spontaneous effort from people that’s really helped our success lately.”
Veteran leadership is hugely important on a team filled with underclassmen in key roles, but Rafferty believes the Cards are meshing after a rough stretch of the schedule.
“I think it was just playing together more,” he added, speaking to his team’s recent turnaround. “We’re a young team, and a lot of us had never played with each other before. It can take some time to grow and to learn how to play with each other.”
Wesleyan’s next game is at home in Silloway Gymnasium on Tuesday, Feb. 4 against Eastern Connecticut. The Warriors are currently 15-4 overall, including 9-0 in Little East Conference play. The Cardinals will look to repeat the result of last season, when they defeated their intrastate rivals 74-63 last January.