NESCAC Basketball Quarterfinal Preview
Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. - The Amherst men’s and women’s basketball teams return to action this weekend for the start of the 2013 NESCAC Championships. The Amherst men host Colby College in quarterfinal action on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m., while the women take the floor against Trinity at 4p.m.
Men’s Basketball: No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 8 Colby
STORY SO FAR
Stringing together its second-consecutive 10-0 NESCAC regular season, the Jeffs open their title defense with a rematch against Colby. Last meeting on Jan. 19, Amherst shot a blistering 59.1 percent (39-for-66) from the floor and 54.5 percent (12-for-22) from three-point range en route to a decisive 98-75 win in LeFrak. The Jeffs are 3-2 against the Mules over the last five meetings and 3-1 all-time against their northern rivals in NESCAC tournament play, with Colby notching its lone victory in the 2009-10 quarterfinals (67-49).
SCOUTING AMHERST (22-2, 10-0 NESCAC)
Climbing to second in the d3hoops.com top-25 poll, Amherst has won 16-straight games, including seven-in-a-row since their matchup with the Mules. Averaging 85.0 points per contest, the Jeffs have shot 48.9 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from behind the arc during that span, holding a +6.0 rebounding edge and a nearly 15-point margin of victory.
Among the league’s scoring leaders (17.3 ppg), Aaron Toomey ’14 serves as the catalyst to the conference’s top-ranked offense (84.4 ppg), ranking second in the NESCAC in assists (5.0). Erupting against the Mules the last time out, Toomey tied a career-high with 34 points, missing just three shots (13-for-16), while adding five rebounds and six helpers.
Overcoming an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance (5-for-24) in the team’s regular season finale against Middlebury, the point guard came through when it mattered most, draining the go-ahead triple in the waning moments of triple overtime to lift the Jeffs to a 104-101 triumph. Peaking at the right time, Toomey has excelled down the stretch, averaging 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists, while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor and 51.5 percent from long distance in the five games entering the showdown with the Panthers.
Pouring in a career-high 29 points with 11 rebounds against Middlebury, Peter Kaasila ’13 is coming off one of his best performances of the season and currently ranks second in the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (64.0). A force during the squad’s last meeting with Colby, Kaasila hit six of his seven shots, finishing with 14 points and six boards.
The Jeffs do-it-all swingman, no one played a larger role in Amherst’s top-seed clinching win over Middlebury than Willy Workman ’13. Tying the game in the second overtime by putting back an intentional free throw miss, the senior tri-captain netted a career-best 30 points and tied his single-game benchmark with 13 rebounds. Hitting his stride over the last couple of weeks, he has averaged nearly 17 points and 10 rebounds, while shooting 60.9 percent in Amherst’s last five games.
Also playing some of his best basketball, Allen Williamson ’13 shot 65.2 percent and averaged 16.5 ppg in the Jeffs last two outings against No. 7 Williams and No. 3 Middlebury, while Tom Killian ’14 was the only other player in double figures against Colby with 10 points.
SCOUTING COLBY (7-16, 3-7 NESCAC)
Rebounding from the loss to Amherst with a win against Merchant Marine, the Mules struggled to gain traction down the stretch, suffering six-consecutive losses before breaking back into the win column with a 76-65 victory over Conn. College on the final day of the regular season. Averaging just 53.5 points per game during their six-game swoon, the Mules sit near the bottom of the NESCAC charts in several offensive categories including points (62.0), field-goal percentage (39.8) and three-point field-goal percentage (27.2).
First-year Chris Hudnut, who leads the team in scoring (12.5), paced Colby against Amherst in January with 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Patrick Stewart ’16 added 13 points and eight rebounds, hitting 6-of-11 field-goal attempts. On the season, Stewart leads the team in rebounding (6.8), while averaging 7.3 points per game. Fellow first-year Sam Willson gives the Mules a boost off the bench, ranking second on the team in points per game (7.8) despite averaging only 14 minutes.
Women’s Basketball: No. 2 Amherst vs. No. 7 Trinity
STORY SO FAR
For the third consecutive NESCAC postseason, Amherst and Trinity will meet in the conference quarterfinals, with the Jeffs taking the last two meetings in 2011-12 (94-59) and 2010-11 (57-32). Winners of eight straight against the Bantams, the Jeffs also took this year’s regular season matchup on Jan. 26 in LeFrak Gymnasium. Opening the game with 10 unanswered points, Amherst closed out the half on an 18-8 run, building a 20-point lead at the intermission en route to a 67-47 victory.
SCOUTING AMHERST (23-1, 9-1 NESCAC)
Reeling off 22-consecutive wins to start the year, Amherst suffered its first conference loss in a league-record 41 games at Williams on Feb. 10 before bouncing back with a 65-45 victory over Middlebury in its regular season finale.
Leading the conference in rebounds (9.2) and blocks (2.8) per game, while ranking second in field-goal percentage (51.7), Megan Robertson ’15 has quickly emerged as one of the league’s premier post players. Scoring 11 points with eight rebounds and six blocks against Trinity in January, Robertson has continued to flourish, averaging 13.2 points and 10.4 boards over her last five outings.
Topping the NESCAC in assists per game (5.0), Marcia Voigt ’13 netted 13 points with four helpers against the Bantams the last time out and currently sits just 12 points shy of becoming the 14th player in program history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau. Also playing well over the last few weeks, the point guard has averaged 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists in Amherst’s last five games.
Giving the Jeffs some front court depth are Bridget Crowley ’13 and Savannah Holness ’15. Holness tallied 13 points and seven rebounds against the Bantams earlier this year, while Crowley ranks among the team leaders in points (9.4) and rebounds (6.2) per game. Jasmine Hardy ’13 helps to spread the floor as one of the league’s best shooters, hitting on over 40 percent of her three-pointers for her career.
SCOUTING TRINITY (13-10, 4-6 NESCAC)
Winners of six straight entering its showdown with Amherst, Trinity has stumbled over the last month of the season, suffering five consecutive losses. Holding opponents to 46.5 ppg and roughly 30 percent shooting during its hot streak, the Bantam defense has struggled to regain its form after the setback to the Jeffs, giving up 70 points per game and 42 percent shooting during its recent slide.
Taylor Murtaugh ’14, who leads the team in points per game (8.7), was the only player to score in double digits against the Jeffs in LeFrak, finishing with 12 points. Hannah Brickley ’14, who sits second on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg), tallied six points, hitting on just 3-of-9 field-goal attempts, while Moriah Sweeney ’14 went just 1-for-7 from the floor for four points. On the season, Sweeney ranks among the team leaders in both points (6.0) and rebounds (5.5) per game.