Bennett's Hot Hand Leads Jeffs Past Emmanuel, 98-76

Junior Kurt Bennett took over the game early in the
second half en route to scoring a career-high 24 points.

AMHERST, MA – The 17th-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team played host to Emmanuel College this evening at LeFrak Gymnasium in non-conference action. The Lord Jeffs finished the first half leading by just one point, but used a 20-4 run to start the second frame to power a 98-76 win.

The Saints got the first two buckets of the game from Mike Jackson, before Amherst junior center Kurt Bennett (Placerville, CA) scored on a short hook shot. On Amherst’s next possession, Bennett found classmate Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) cutting to the hoop for a score. The pace of the game remained very up tempo with Amherst hitting a pair of three pointers on either side of an Emmanuel three ball on the next three possessions.

Emmanuel took a 16-13 lead with Jackson hitting back-to-back shots, before Isaiah Duke nailed a step-back jumper. The Saints' lead grew to 20-13 on a Nate Jackson reverse layup with 13:22 to play in the half. Meehan closed the gap to 22-19 on a beautiful drive to the right side for Amherst.

Lord Jeff sophomore Connor Johnson (San Diego, CA) tied the game 30-30 with 7:00 to play in the half with a three pointer from the left corner on a nice ball reversal. After seeing Amherst tie the game once again at 38-38, Mike Jackson scored after an amazing display of dribbling skills to answer for the Saints.  Wheeler made a three from the left corner to put the Lord Jeffs on top 41-40, only to see Mike Jackson get fouled on a three and make all of his ensuing free throws.

With just 28 second left, Amherst first-year Allen Williamson (Saugus, MA) drove the lane through three Saints players and elevated for a right-handed slam that brought the entire building to its feet. On Emmanuel’s ensuing possession, Williamson came from the weak side for a two-handed block to send Amherst to the locker room leading, 48-47.

At the break, Wheeler paced the Amherst offense with 14 points, with Meehan adding 10 points. Duke and Mike Jackson led the Saints with 15 and 14 points, respectively. After starting the half on absolute fire, the Saints cooled off to shoot a very impressive 58 percent from the field.

To start the second half, Amherst took advantage of Bennett’s quickness getting up the floor, as the Lord Jeff big man scored the first three hoops of the frame to open up a 54-47 lead. Bennett completely took over the game for a five-minute stretch, scoring 12 points as Amherst’s lead swelled to 62-51.

Emmanuel called a timeout with 11:47 to play trailing 68-51 as the Lord Jeffs started the second half on a 20-4 run, powered by 14 points from Bennett during the stretch. Over the next five minutes, the Saints shaved five points off the deficit, and trailed 82-70 with 6:01 to play.

During the final minutes of the game, Amherst played a handful of younger players to close out a 98-76 win. In the end, Bennett finished with 24 points on 12-for-12 shooting, tripling his previous career-high of eight points. Wheeler and Meehan added 18 and 16 points, respectively, while Johnson added a career-high 12 points in the win. Mike Jackson finished with 21 points for the Saints, while Duke was close behind with 20 points.

With the result, Amherst’s record improves to 5-1 on the year, while Emmanuel falls to 1-5. The Lord Jeffs will travel to face Lasell College Saturday afternoon before breaking for the holidays. Amherst will return for a road game against Stevenson College (MD) on Jan. 2, 2010 at 3 p.m.