Jeffs Clinch Top Spot in NESCAC with 78-67 Win at Wesleyan

Junior Brian Baskauskas poured in 16 points for Amherst. 

Courtesy Wesleyan University

MIDDLETOWN, CT - Amherst College, the defending NCAA Division III men’s basketball champs and ranked #1 in the latest poll, clinched the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament by defeating Little Three rival Wesleyan University for the second time this season, 78-67. Amherst also finished its Little Three season with a perfect 4-0 mark for another title.

After losing at Amherst 85-63 back on Jan. 8, the Cardinals gave the Lord Jeffs a tougher time in the second half today than they did a month ago. In each game, Amherst had a double-digit lead in the first half whittle down to a tenuous level at halftime as Wesleyan came back from a 22-10 deficit in the opening period to cut the gap to 34-30 at intermission. Wesleyan senior Mike Raymond hit a running 35-footer at the buzzer to make it a four-point game after 20 minutes. 

Amherst did move back ahead by 11, 42-31, to open the second half. That was the case at Amherst a month earlier as well, but unlike that game, when Amherst continued to pour it on and pull ahead by 20 after 7:30 of play, Wesleyan settled down and cut the lead to one. Senior Nick Pelletier, who had scored his 1,000th point for Wesleyan last weekend at Tufts, scored nine straight points with two three-point plays and a trey, to make it a 51-48 game at the 10:00 mark. 

When junior Stan Grayson scored on a second-chance hoop 38 seconds later, it was 51-50. It was 53-52 heading into the final seven minutes when Amherst flexed its muscle, led by junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA). He hit for 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers, as the Lord Jeffs converted on eight straight possessions to move ahead 70-58 with 2:40 remaining. The outcome was never in doubt down the stretch.

Baskauskas led Amherst with 16 points, joined by senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) with 16 to go along with his seven assists. Senior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) added 10 points and helped Amherst to a decided 39-24 edge on the boards with 15 caroms, 13 of them defensive, for his sixth double-double of the season.  Senior Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) was the fourth Lord Jeff in double-digits with 10 points.

Pelletier led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Junior Kevin Scura came off the Wesleyan bench to toss in 15 while sophomore Jeremy Kaminer added 10.

Now 8-0 in the NESCAC, Amherst (21-2) finishes the regular season next Saturday, Feb. 16 hosting Trinity. No other NESCAC team has less than two conference defeats. Wesleyan heads to Middlebury for its next game Friday, Feb. 15.