Amherst vs. Williams Basketball Preview
Contact: Ben Badua
Amherst (M) vs. Wesleyan Highlights (Courtesy of Megan Robertson '15)
Amherst (W) vs. Bowdoin Highlights (Courtesy of Kate Beemer '15)
No. 14 Amherst (15-2, 5-0 NESCAC) vs. No. 9 Williams (16-1, 5-0 NESCAC)
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Edging out a 68-60 win over Wesleyan last Tuesday in LeFrak, the Lord Jeffs take aim at a third-consecutive Little Three championship. Earning a 56-48 victory over the Cardinals in late November, the Ephs could lay claim to their first outright Little Three title since the 2009-10 season. Both teams also carry long winning streaks into Wednesday’s showdown, with Amherst taking each of its last nine and Williams winning 11-straight.
While Williams holds a 117-90 edge in the all-time series, Amherst has gotten the better of the Ephs recently, taking both match-ups last season. Knocking down a pair of free throws in a 67-65 win in Williamstown on Jan. 25, 2012, Aaron Toomey ’14 once again put the Jeffs over the top in the rematch, hitting a fadaway jumper in the lane with 1.9 seconds left to lift Amherst to a thrilling 80-78 win. With the series tightening of late, four of the last five meetings have been decided by four points or less with the largest margin of victory during that span being Williams’ 77-71 triumph in the 2011 NCAA National Quarterfinals.
Opening the year with five-straight wins, Amherst was clicking offensively, averaging 94.6 points per game, while shooting nearly 50.0 percent from the floor. However, during a 1-2 stretch in early December, the Jeffs saw their scoring average drop over 20 points (72.7) and its shooting percentage to 43.4 percent. In the weeks that followed, Amherst has righted the ship, scoring over 80 points per game. The highest scoring team in the NESCAC (84.2), the Jeffs have shot 52.5 percent from the floor during their win streak, including 43.7 percent from three-point range. Amherst’s offensive prowess was on full display last Saturday against Colby, with the Purple & White shooting 59.1 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from behind the arc, while scoring the most points against a conference opponent (98) since a Jan. 29, 2011 match-up with Bowdoin.
Balance has been key for Amherst this season, with five players averaging double figures. Pouring in 15.4 points per outing, Toomey leads the way, while also ranking third in the conference in assists (4.8). The reigning NESCAC Player of the Week, Toomey erupted for 34 points the last time out, hitting 13-of-16 shots against Colby, including 6-of-8 from long distance. In his last three outings against the Ephs, Toomey has averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while shooting nearly 44.0 percent from the floor.
Peter Kaasila ’13 has enjoyed a solid season for the Jeffs, averaging career-highs in points (12.8) and rebounds (5.6), while leading the conference in field-goal percentage (.658). Veterans Willy Workman ’13 and Allen Williamson ’13 are consistent contributors, averaging 10.3 and 11.0 points, respectively, with Workman also leading the team in rebounds (7.2), blocks (1.9) and steals (1.5). First-year Connor Green has given Amherst some instant offense off the bench averaging 11.5 points per game, while David Kalema ’14 and Tom Killian ’14 have also been called upon to help shoulder the burden with the duo accounting for nearly 20 points per outing.
The league’s most efficient offense, the Ephs are shooting a conference-best 52.2 percent from the floor and 42.4 percent from beyond the arc. Taylor Epley ’14 leads the Williams attack, ranking second in the NESCAC in scoring (19.9), hitting 51.3 percent of his field-goal attempts and 48.1 percent of his three-pointers. In two games last season, the Jeffs held Epley in check, holding the forward to 9.0 points on 7-for-20 (35.0 percent) shooting, including a 1-for-9 (11.1 percent) clip from long distance.
James Klemm ’13, who has shot 52.4 percent from the field and 47.3 percent from three in 2012-13 (averaging nearly 12 points per game), was one of the Ephs’ most potent weapons in two meetings last year, pouring in 14.0 points per outing on 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) shooting. Michael Mayer ’14 gives the Ephs a strong presence on the low block, averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds this season.
No. 4 Amherst (17-0, 5-0 NESCAC) vs. No. 22 Williams (15-2, 4-1 NESCAC)
WHAT’S AT STAKE
73, 17, 10 - Amherst carries several lengthy streaks into Wednesday’s showdown at LeFrak with Williams. Dating back to 2009, the Jeffs have won 73-straight games at home and despite losing a dynamic senior class, the Purple & White have not missed a beat, winning each of its first 17 outings, while looking to upend its rivals for the 11-straight time.
Winners of six in a row and 10 of the last 11, the Ephs hope to keep pace with the conference’s elite with their only league loss coming to No. 6 Tufts. Having already defeated Little Three rival Wesleyan earlier this season, Williams takes aim at its first outright Little Three Championship since 2007.
Amherst has won each of the last 10 meetings dating back to 2009. Notching a 80-58 win in the first of two match-ups last season, the Jeffs cruised to an 77-55 victory in the rematch at LeFrak. While the Jeffs have won six of the last 10 showdowns by at least 20 points, Williams came close to tripping up its rivals in the 2011 NESCAC Semifinals (L, 71-64) and 2010 NCAA Sectional Semis (L, 71-66).
Defense has been the name of the game for Amherst for much of the season, with the Jeffs surrendering just 48.5 points per outing, while holding opponents to a 33.1 percent field-goal percentage and a 30.6 percent clip from long distance. Megan Robertson ’15 has helped anchor the Purple & White’s efforts, leading the league in both rebounding (8.8) and blocked shots (2.9). With five double-doubles on the year, Robertson matched a career-high with 17 rebounds against Wesleyan in early January, before blocking a career-best seven shots against Bowdoin last Friday.
Shooting a conference-leading 54.4 percent from the floor, Robertson has also helped shoulder the burden for the NESCAC’s highest-scoring offense (66.3), which also ranks second in team field-goal percentage (40.4). The reigning NESCAC Player of the Week, Marcia Voigt ’13 averaged 18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over the last three games, hitting on 48.8 percent of her field-goal attempts. On the season, the senior point guard leads the team in scoring 12.8, while topping the conference in assists per game (3.8).
The duo excelled against the Ephs last a year ago, with Robertson averaging 18.5 points and 13.5 rebounds, while shooting 60.9 percent (14-for-23) from the floor. Scoring 21 points with 17 rebounds in the first meeting, she had another double-double with 16 points and 10 boards in the rematch. Voigt also enjoyed success against the Ephs, averaging 11.5 points, five rebounds and five assists, while hitting 57.9 percent (11-for-19) of her shots despite playing a reserve role in both of last season’s match-ups.
Coming into her own, Jasmine Hardy ’13 has developed into a reliable third scorer for the Jeffs in 2012-13, averaging 10.4 points per game, while shooting 43.0 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three-point range. Bridget Crowley ’13 and Savannah Holness ’15 give Amherst some depth up front, with the pair combining for nearly 17 points and 12 rebounds per outing.
One of the NESCAC’s most efficient offenses, Williams leads the league in field-goal percentage (42.3), while ranking second in three-point percentage (34.8). Capable of doing a lot of their damage from beyond the arc, the Ephs feature three players ranked in the top-five of the conference in three-point shooting, led by Jennie Harding ’13, who has connected on a NESCAC-best 50.0 percent of her attempts. Grace Rehnquist ’13, who sits among the team’s scoring leaders (11.3) has shot 43.2 percent from beyond the arc this season, while Ellen Cook ’15 has knocked down 40.9 percent from long distance, averaging 10.9 points per game.
Forwards Danny Rainer ’13 and Claire Baecher ’13 provide Williams with a strong presence down low with Rainer sitting tied for first in the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (54.4) and first on the team in rebounds (6.6), while Baecher leads the squad in points (11.6) and blocks (2.2) per game.