Athletics

Baskauskas Game-Winner Lifts Lord Jeffs to 77-76 Win Over Bates

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Brian Baskauskas scored 16 points including the game-winner.

AMHERST, MA – The third-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team remained undefeated in NESCAC play this afternoon with a 77-76 win over visiting Bates College at LeFrak Gymnasium. Amherst held a large lead, but needed a game-winner with 2.1 remaining to take the game. The Lord Jeffs improved to 13-2 (2-0 NESCAC) with the win, while Bates falls to 8-5 (0-2) on the year.

Amherst started the game with an 8-2 run sparked by a pair of three-point plays from seniors Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY). In the early going, Bates looked to have no answer to a huge starting front line from the Lord Jeffs that grabbed three offensive boards to just a single defensive rebound from the Bobcats.

At the 13:16 mark of the first half, Walters picked off a pass and went the distance to double-up Bates 16-8 by tipping home his own miss on the break. The 6’7” swingman continued to take advantage of Bobcat defenders and scored on the next possession to bring his total to nine points.

Bates finally ended a 10-0 run from the Lord Jeffs on a jumper from Ben Thayer, cutting the lead to 22-10. Amherst responded with more strong inside play from senior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) who finished a tough three-point play on a jumper in the lane.

With just 8:00 to play in the half, Amherst increased its lead back to 29-16 on a pair of free throws from senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA). After a nice lay-in from Bates’ Brian Wholey, sophomore Steve Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) got into the mix with a three pointer.

Olson began to take the game over around the five minute mark as he had an amazing cross-over and lay-up, before a three pointer from the right corner. Bates began to heat up as well, and hit a pair of threes to cut the lead to 37-27.

After a nice tip-in from senior Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ), Bates hit another triple to cut the lead to single digits for the first time in neither ten minutes of game play. The Bobcats cut the lead to four points, at 39-35, on a pair of free throws by Chris Wilson.

In the last minutes of the half, Bates continued to close the gap, but with 40 seconds remaining junior Glenn Wong (Leveret, MA) found classmate Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) cutting to the hoop for a nice reverse lay-up. The Jeffs neither extended their margin on a three from Goldsmith at the buzzer, but the score was waived off to keep the score at 43-39.

Brian Ellis led all scorers with 17 first-half points for Bates, while Olson had 11 points to pace the Lord Jeffs. Walters chipped in with 9 points in just 11 minutes of action in the half due to foul trouble. Notably, with 2:01 to play in the half, Wholey scored the 1,000th point of his career, becoming the 28th player in program history to reach the milestone.

After Bates scored the first bucket of the second half, Amherst went on a 7-0 run to extend to a 50-41 lead with 17:52 to play. The Bobcats responded with a 5-0 spurt of their own, until a Baskauskas drive stopped the run.

Walters had a five-point possession when he hit a three, and a Bates player was whistled for an off-ball foul during the shot. Amherst retained the ball, and Walters quickly drove to the hoop for another score. Bates answered with a three from the top of the key to hang tough at 57-52 with thirteen minutes to play.

After Bates cut the lead to two points on a three from Scott Place, Baskauskas responded with a deep ball of his own, forcing a Bobcat timeout with 11:46. Walters went 4-for-4 from the line on two straight possessions to keep Amherst ahead despite pressure from Bates.

Walters started to dominate as he scored seven consecutive points for Amherst, bringing his game total to 21 with over seven minutes to play. A trio of offensive fouls for Amherst on consecutive trips down the floor let Bates close the gap to 69-66, with just four minutes remaining.

Wholey tied the game at 69-69 with 3:15 to play on a triple from the top of the key, and then hit one-of-two foul shots after a technical foul on Amherst. The Jeffs kept possession after the free throws, and looked to Goldsmith for a beautiful jumper on the baseline.

With 2:30 to play, LeFrak gymnasium came alive as the two sides traded buckets and the lead. Olson gave Amherst a 73-72 lead on a jumper from the elbow then grabbed a defensive rebound on the next trip down court. With 1:06 to play, Baskauskas was fouled going away from the hoop, but awarded two shots as Amherst was in the double bonus.

He knocked down both free throws to put the Jeffs up 75-72 before Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 used a timeout to set the defense. Halloran hit a tough short-range jumper to close the gap to one with less than a minute to play.

After an Olson missed three pointer, the rebound caromed off an Amherst foot and out of bounds. Bates called a timeout down 75-74 with 16.2 showing on the clock. Not a single fan in the building stayed in their seat as Bates looked for the go-ahead bucket. Wholey hit a pull-up jumper to take a 76-75 lead. Olson brought the ball up court and called a timeout with 5.7 remaining.

Amherst set their play of choice, took a look at the Bates defense and called another timeout. Goldsmith passed the ball in to Baskauskas coming off a double screen on the baseline. The Amherst player took one pump fake, a dribble to the right, pulled up and hit the go-ahead basket with 2.1 to play. Bates quickly passed the ball in, but had it knocked away into traffic while time ticked away on an Amherst 77-76 win.

Walters finished with a game-high 21 points and 6 rebounds, while Baskauskas had 16 and Olson score 13. Bates was paced by Wholey and Ellis who each finished with 17 points. 

The game-winner from Baskauskas powered Amherst to a 2-0 start in conference play, and a 13-2 overall mark. The Lord Jeffs return to action on Tuesday at Southern Vermont for a 7 p.m. game.

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