2nd-Ranked Lord Jeffs Hold on for 85-79 Win Over Bowdoin College

Senior Fletcher Walters scored a
career-high 26 points and pulled down 9 boards against Bowdoin.

AMHERST, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team welcomed the Polar Bears of Bowdoin College for a conference match-up of the NESCAC’s top two teams. Amherst held on for a tough 85-79 win this evening to close out another 2-0 conference weekend.

The Lord Jeffs were able to hold off a strong second half effort from Bowdoin this evening, and close out another win to stay undefeated in conference play. Amherst led by as many as 17 points during the second half, and shot 69.6% in the stanza to match 51 points from Bowdoin in the frame.

Amherst started the game with a 10-2 run, powered by eight early points from senior forward Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI). Classmates Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) and Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) got into the mix early on to combine for another pair of buckets inside.

Bowdoin battled back to nearly tie the game, before senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) found a streaking Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) for a lay-up, and then hit a three of his own in transition. Walters extended the Amherst lead to 19-10 on a beautiful baby hook in traffic.

Neither team scored for over four minutes, until Bowdoin’s Andrew Sargeantson broke the silence with a lay-up. Amherst responded with a pair of deep threes from sophomore Steve Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) and first-year Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT).

Despite Bowdoin scoring on four straight trips down the floor, Amherst held tough, and increased its lead to 31-19, with 3:39 to play in the half, on another jumper from Jones. Walters dropped home his fifth bucket of the half on a three from the left wing, bringing his total to 13 points.

The Polar Bears ended the first half on an 8-0 run to close the gap to 34-28 at the intermission. Walters led all scorers with 13 first-half points, while Jones had 8 for Amherst. Andrew Hippert and Jordan Fliegel paced the Polar Bears with 8 apiece.

Amherst started the second half in the same way as the first, with a quick 8-2 run, capped by a nice slam dunk by Hopkins. Olson found the breaking center after a Bowdoin bucket, where he beat everyone down the floor for the flush.

By the 17:20 mark, the Lord Jeffs had extended its lead to 47-33, with Olson dishing out three assists on the first five Amherst field goals. Bowdoin called a timeout and responded with an 8-1 run of their own, cutting the lead to single-digits by the 14:57 mark.

After Walters grabbed his seventh board of the night, he handed off to Olson for another home-run pass to a breaking Hopkins. The 6’10” center could not find the handle in time for a dunk, but still managed to score on a nifty lay-up with two defenders recovering. Just moments later, senior Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) was the catalyst with a defensive rebound, before Olson hit Hopkins for a runaway dunk.

Amherst extended its lead to 64-50 on a flurry of buckets off of Olson assists. The 2008 Bob Cousy Award finalist rattled off eight helpers in the less than 12 minutes of second-half action, bringing his game total to 10.

With five minutes to play, Hippert and Fliegel had already combined for 33 points, as they tried to keep Bowdoin alive. Amherst held onto a 15-point lead, which the Polar Bears would need to quickly put a dent in to have a chance for a win.

Amherst called a timeout with a 77-64 lead, and only 3:24 to play in the half. After a Lord Jeff turnover, Hippert nailed a pull-up three to cut the lead to ten points. Amherst traded a trio of free throws for a Sargeantson three-point play to keep the lead at ten points with 2:13 to go.

Bowdoin went to a heavy full-court press, but Amherst broke the set. The Jeffs nearly escaped a shot clock violation with a very long three point attempt that rimmed out, before Bowdoin hit a three of their own with 51.9 seconds to play. After Amherst broke the press again, Olson made one-of-two at the line to increase the lead back to 81-73. Hippert drained another three with 31.4 to play, cutting the lead to five points at 81-76.

After another pair of Amherst free throws, and another Bowdoin three with 12 seconds to play, Olson gave the Jeffs an 85-79 advantage with 8.6 to go. Meehan blocked the final Bowdoin three-point attempt to ice the game, 85-79, in Amherst’s favor.

Amherst had five players finish in double-digits, lead by Walters with a career-high 26 points and nine rebounds. Olson had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, to just two turnovers. Hopkins, Baskauskas and Jones combined for another 39 points and 12 rebounds.

Bowdoin had three players finish the night with 20, or more, points, including 22 from Hippert, and 20 apiece from Fliegel and Kyle Jackson.  

With the win, Amherst improves to 18-2, and 6-0 in the NESCAC, while the Polar Bears fall to 16-4 (4-2). The Lord Jeffs will host non-conference Rhode Island College on Tuesday evening in a re-match of last season’s Elite Eight win for Amherst.