Amherst Holds On for 72-66 Win Over Colby College

Junior Brian Baskauskas paced
the Lord Jeffs with 18 points.

AMHERST, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team looked for its tenth consecutive win this evening against NESCAC foe Colby College at home. The Lord Jeffs took a 72-66 win at LeFrak Gymnasium to remain undefeated in conference play.

Amherst held a large lead early in the game, but let the White Mules hang around. A 16-point first-half margin disappeared late in the game, before Amherst made free throws to close out the win.

Colby started the first half in a two-three zone, and Amherst quickly went to work. On the first two possessions, the Lord Jeffs worked the ball around the horn and then down low for lay-ups, before settling to three pointers from the wings against the zone. The Jeffs had a 14-8 lead on a triple from senior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ).

After a Colby timeout, the White Mules went on a small run to close the gap to two points. Amherst responded with another pair of three pointers and a free throw to take a 21-12 lead with 10:32 to play in the half.

Colby switched to man defense before the game could get out of reach. Amherst extended the lead to 29-16 at the 6:56 mark on a nice lay-in from senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA). Olson and junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) started the game to combine for 15 early points on 6-for-6 shooting.

Back-to-back threes from first-year Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) and sophomore Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) increased the Amherst margin to 38-19. With three and half minutes to play in the frame, Colby went back to the zone, and the Lord Jeffs went 2-for-4 from long range to close the stanza with a 41-31 lead.

Colby’s Mark Gaudet led all scorers with 13 first-half points, while Baskauskas paced the Lord Jeffs with 10 points. Meehan had six points for Amherst on a pair of threes, while Olson had five points and four assists in the half. As a team, the Lord Jeffs went 8-for-15 from long range.

Within four minutes of second-half play, Colby had closed the gap to 44-40. Amherst responded to the smallest lead in nearly twenty minutes of game action with another three, this time from senior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI). Another 5-0 run from the Mules cut the lead to 47-45 with 14:15 to play in the second half.

An emphatic two-handed block by senior Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) brought the Amherst faithful to their feet. The center came from trailing the play to pin the ball high on the glass from the weak side.

Amherst snapped a four-minute scoring streak on a nice ally-oop from Olson to Walters, before another triple by Gaudet. The score brought the Colby guard’s total to 21 points with over ten minutes to play. Amherst head coach Dave Hixon ’75 was forced to use a 30-second timeout when Colby took a 52-51 lead with 8:50 to play. The lead was the first for the White Mules since a 3-2 advantage early on.

Amherst snagged the lead back when Walters missed a deep jumper, but got his own rebound and floated in a finger-roll in the lane. On the next trip down the court, Walters put in the work on defense and took a hard charge on the left block.

The Lord Jeffs looked content to keep shooting three pointers against a soft zone, as Wheeler hit the team’s 12th long ball of the night to force a Colby timeout with Amherst leading 59-54, and just 5:40 remaining.

As the gap closed to three points, Olson calmly nailed a three from at least six feet behind the arc to double the lead. Coming out of a Colby timeout, Gaudet had a tough shot blocked with 2:25 to play. The Jeffs went to Walters on a baseline lob, where he was fouled in the act of shooting. The forward knocked down both foul shots for a 64-58 lead with just 1:57 to go in regulation.

A pair of free throws by Adam Choice cut the lead to two possessions at 64-60. Amherst was caught in a trap just over half court, and called a timeout with 1:09 to play. After nine seconds, Colby center Nick Planeta fouled out with four points and six rebounds. Jones hit the ensuing free throws for Amherst, before a Colby turnover gave the ball back to the Lord Jeffs.

Amherst broke to heavy press to lead to an open lay-up by Wheeler, before a deep three banked in for Colby’s Gil Haylon to cut the deficit back to 68-63. Two more free throws by Baskauskas gave Amherst a 70-63 lead. Gaudet nailed another triple with 15 seconds to play.

Olson was fouled on the inbound with 13.0 seconds remaining, and made a pair of free throws to keep the lead in two possession territory.  After the Olson free throws, Colby had a desperation three blocked and decided not to foul. Amherst let the last seconds tick away on a 72-66 victory.

Gaudet led all players with 24 points and three steals, while Artie Cutrone and Adam Choice each scored 15 points for Colby. Amherst was paced by 18 points from Baskauaskas, 12 from Walters and 10 from Olson. Walters had another double-double with 10 rebounds, while Olson dished out 8 assists.

Amherst improves to 17-2 overall, and 5-0 in the NESCAC, while Colby falls to 10-9 (1-4 NESCAC). The Jeffs will face a tough Bowdoin College team tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.