Jeffs Lose Hard-Fought Battle at Colby, 72-68

Sophomore Jeff Holmes had 12 points, six rebounds and two assists at Colby.

WATERVILLE, ME – In a thrilling men’s basketball game that saw neither team lead by more than five points in the second half, Amherst College came out on the wrong end of a 72-68 result at Colby College to mark the Lord Jeffs’ second conference loss of the weekend. Amherst falls to 13-5 (3-2 NESCAC), while the Mules—who have won two straight against the Jeffs—improve to 15-2 (5-0).

The Jeffs, who suffered a heartbreaking 69-68 loss at Bowdoin College Friday night, went 0-2 in a NESCAC weekend for the first time since the 2001-02 squad dropped back-to-back games to Williams and Middlebury. Colby, which increased its winning streak to eight games, is tied with Williams (19-1, 5-0 NESCAC) for first place in the conference standings, with Middlebury (17-2, 4-1) alone in third. Bowdoin and Amherst each sit at 3-2 in the NESCAC.

Colby junior point guard Christian Van Loenen had the biggest game of his collegiate career with 16 points on  6-for-7 shooting, seven assists, four rebounds and a pair of steals. With the Mules holding a 67-65 lead, Van Loenen nailed a three-pointer with 23 seconds left. Amherst countered with a three-point shot by Steve Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) with eight seconds left to cut the margin to 70-68. The Mules broke Amherst’s full-court press on the ensuing inbounds pass and Mike Russell hit a wide open lay-up with two seconds remaining for the final points.
Taylor Barrise (Allendale, NJ) led the Lord Jeffs with 13 points, while Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, RI) had 12 points and six rebounds. David Waller (Tampa, FL) added 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) was playing well with nine points, five rebounds, and three assists before suffering an injury early in the second half and missing the rest of the game.

Russell had his 11th double-double game in scoring and rebounding with game-highs of 20 points and 10 boards. Adam Choice had early foul problems and still finished with 19 points and three assists. Gil Haylon went 3-for-5 from three-point range for nine points and Justin Sherman had six points and six assists.
Amherst led 50-45 with 10:55 to play in the game after Waller nailed three straight free throws. Van Loenen, though, went to work and scored seven points, dished an assist, and pulled down a rebound over the next five minutes to give Colby a 54-53 lead with 6:34 to play.
The Lord Jeffs went ahead for the final time when Holmes scored inside for a 57-56 lead with 4:45 remaining. Choice put the Mules up for good with an inside bucket of his own with 4:29 to play and Russell followed with a three-point play for a 61-57 margin with 4:04 left.

Colby held a 65-60 lead with 1:42 on the clock, but the Lord Jeffs got back into things quickly after a Colby player punched the ball away for a technical foul. Wheeler hit both technical shots and Holmes went 1-for-2 to cut the lead to 65-63. Choice scored on a lay-up with 1:28 to play for a four-point lead, but Amherst made it 67-65 after a jumper by DJ Carcieri (Narragansett, RI) with 56 seconds left. Van Loenen nailed his big three-point shot with 23 seconds left.

The Lord Jeffs will look to get back on track when they host Rhode Island College Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. in a non-conference game. Conference play will resume when Amherst travels to take on Bates College Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m.