Third-Ranked Jeffs Hold Off #4 Williams for 87-80 Win
Senior Brandon Jones scored a game-high 18 points in the win.
AMHERST, MA – In the second game of the annual Amherst-Williams basketball doubleheader, the third-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team faced the fourth-ranked Ephs at LeFrak Gymnasium. The Lord Jeffs held off a late charge from the Ephs for an 87-80 win.
After five minutes of play in the first half, Amherst held a 16-10 lead on strong play from seniors Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ). Amherst went to a starting line-up with the two 6’7” players flanking 6’10” center Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) in an attempt to outsize the Ephs.
Jones continued to dominate down low with a silky jump hook, and piled up seven points in the first eight minutes of action. Two possessions later, Amherst junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) finished a three-point play on the right block to stretch the Jeff lead to 23-10.
At the 7:10 mark, an offensive rebound from junior Mike Holsey (Potomac, MD) led to a three pointer from sophomore Steve Wheeler (Bloomington, MN). After an Eph miss, Amherst first-year Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) finished a three-point play off an Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) feed. The score gave Amherst a 31-16 lead.
Meehan responded to a 4-0 Williams run with a post-up jumper from the right side of the lane, before Wheeler dropped home another triple from the left corner. The Jeffs continued to play tight defense, as they picked up their seventh block of the game with 4:13 left in the half.
Jones answered a Blake Shultz lay-up with another turnaround jumper to give the Jeffs a 38-23 lead with 1:57 to play in the half. After five straight points from the Ephs, Wheeler drilled another three from the left wing with 21 seconds remaining.
Schultz went 0-for-2 from the line with less than five seconds to play, letting the Lord Jeffs head to the locker room up 41-28. At the break, Eph Chris Rose had a game-high 10 points, while Jones paced the Jeffs with nine points, four rebounds and three blocks.
Amherst answered an early run from Williams with a second-chance triple from Baskauskas at the top of the key. Eph co-captain Chris Shalvoy immediately nailed a three of his own from the right wing to close the gap to 46-38.
With 15:45 to play, Walters picked off a pass at the top of the key and took the ball 40 feet for a highlight reel dunk over a pursuing Eph defender. In the midst of a five-point trip down the floor for the Ephs, Hopkins picked up his fourth foul, sending the big man to the bench.
Amherst responded when Jones drilled his second and third threes of the night to swell the Lord Jeff lead to 60-45. After a Williams timeout, Wheeler made his fourth shot from long distance to increase the lead to18 points.
The Lord Jeffs led by as many as 22 points, but an 8-1 run from Williams cut the lead to 69-55 with just 5:30 to play in the second half. The two powerhouses traded baskets, and at the 3:02 mark, Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 called a timeout with the Jeffs holding on to a 72-61 lead.
With two minutes to play, Williams committed three quick fouls to put Amherst into the bonus. At the 1:01 mark, Schultz made 2-of-3 at the line, before an Eph offensive board. Williams narrowly missed a three to cut the lead to five.
After another foul from Williams, Jones made a single free throw to give Amherst a 78-69 lead. Shalvoy buried a three pointer on the next trip down the court to cut the lead to six points with 44.1 to go in the second half.
With 34.0 seconds left, Thomas Golia made a long three from the left wing to cut the lead to 79-75. Williams fouled Olson before the ensuing inbound play, and the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year nailed a pair at the line to take a 81-75 lead.
After a missed lay-up from Shalvoy, Walters grabbed his seventh board of the game and knocked down another two foul shots. Walters then blocked the following three-point attempt and was pushed out of bounds for a technical foul on Rose. Baskauskas made another two foul shots to increase the lead to 85-77.
Amherst made its free throws down the stretch to take the game 87-80. The Lord Jeffs improve to 10-2 with the win, while Williams drops its first game of the year to fall to 12-1. Amherst returns to action Tuesday night when it travels to Elms College for a 7 p.m. game to be broadcast nationally by D3Hoops.com.