Jeffs Top Trinity for First Time in Three Seasons, 69-58; Andrew Olson Reaches 700-Assist Mark

Olson4
Senior Andrew Olson led the Jeffs to
a perfect 9-0 NESCAC season.

AMHERST, MA – The top-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team hosted visiting NESCAC rival Trinity College this afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium for both teams' regular-season finales. Amherst pulled away down the stretch for a 69-58 win to stay undefeated in conference play.

Amherst was looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the Bantams, dating back to the 2004-05 season. With an 8-0 conference record entering today’s game, the Lord Jeffs had already locked up the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC Tournament, and looked to strengthen their resume for NCAA hosting rights with another solid win.

Prior to tip-off, Amherst saluted the members of the class of 2008, who would be playing in their final regular season home games. Seniors Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ), Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY), Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ), Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) had racked up a 105-10 record at Amherst entering Saturday's game, and were rewarded as the starting lineup.

In the early going, Amherst struggled against heavy pressure from the Bantam defense, but four quick points from Olson had the Jeffs up 9-7 with 15:47 to play in the half. Olson freed himself for a breakaway lay-up after Walters hit him with a homerun pass for his third bucket of the game.

Jones tied the game at 18-18 on a deep three pointer from the top of the key, his second of the game. After a nice put-back from Trinity’s Paul Rowe, Olson beat his defender baseline for his fourth bucket of the day. A one-for-two trip to the free throw line for Robert Taylor gave the Bantams a 21-20 lead with under eight minutes to play.

A trademark step-back jumper from Olson on the right baseline tied the game up at 24-24 before a nice post jump shot by Jones gave the Jeffs the lead back. A foul shot by Rowe lifted the Bantams to a 27-26 advantage with 1:27 to play. After the two sides traded baskets, Jones hit a pair at the line to give the Jeffs a 30-29 lead with one possession to play, but junior Mike Holsey (Potomac, MD) blocked the final Trinity attempt.

Jones led the Jeffs with 12 first-half points, while Olson chipped in 10 points for Amherst. Russ Martin paced the Bantams with nine points, while Patrick Hasiuk added seven of his own.

Amherst started the second half with a pair of and-one opportunities, but failed to extend the lead due to missed free throws. After Hopkins missed his three-point play chance, the Jeffs secured the rebound, leading to a trademark Olson feed for a Hopkins dunk. The baseline slam gave the Jeffs a 38-33 lead.

At the 15-minute mark, Hopkins took the ball 30 feet from the hoop and drove the lane for a two-handed tomahawk over a Bantam defender. With 12 minutes to play, the Jeffs held a small lead, but a broken offensive set led to a three from Trinity’s Brian Ford.

Junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) got into the scoring mix for Amherst with a turnaround jumper off the left side of the lane. A put-back by Hopkins extended the Amherst lead back to five at 50-45 with 8:48 to go in regulation.

With just 5:23 to play in the second half, Jones went to the line, giving the Jeffs a 54-51 lead. After a blocked Trinity shot, first-year Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) made a huge lay-up to extend the Amherst edge to five points. Hasiuk responded for Trinity with an impressive step-back three to close the gap to 56-54 with 3:57 to go.

With 3:40 to play, Trinity’s Aaron Westbrooks fouled out, leading to a pair of free throws by Walters. A hard foul by Bantam Luke McDougall gave Hopkins a chance to knock down free throws to provide breathing room. The big man missed both, but Olson corralled the rebound for a floater in the lane.

Amherst grabbed an offensive rebound with 1:13 to play, and Trinity was forced to foul, down four with a fresh shot clock. Walters hit both free throws, before a Hasiuk miss gave Walters another defensive rebound and trip the line. The four free throws gave the Lord Jeffs a 65-57 lead with less than a minute to play.

Trinity was reduced to shooting three pointers with 30 seconds remaining and a 10-point deficit. Trinity missed free throws down the stretch, while the Jeffs knocked theirs down to secure a 69-58 win.

Amherst was led by Olson with 16 points, Jones with 15 points, and Walters’ seventh double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Trinity followed 13 points by Hasiuk and 10 points by Rowe in the loss.

Olson added three assists in the win to move his career total to 701, as he became just the eighth player in Division III history to reach the 700-assist mark. Number 700 came in typical Olson fashion, as he sent a no-look behind-the-back bounce pass to Hopkins, who went in untouched for a two-handed dunk that put the Jeffs ahead 38-33 with 16 minutes remaining in the second half. The senior captain had already set school records for assists in a season (243) and in a game (15), and he continues to build on his program-best career total.

The Jeffs will head into the upcoming NESCAC Tournament with a 22-2 record, and a perfect 9-0 conference mark. Trinity falls to 18-6 (6-3 NESCAC) with the loss, and will host Connecticut College next weekend. Amherst will return to action next Saturday for a quarterfinal match-up at 4 p.m. with Colby College coming to town. Full tournament details can be found below.

BOX SCORE

2008 Men’s Basketball Championship Seeding
Quarterfinals – Saturday, February 23
No. 8 Colby at No. 1 Amherst – 4:00 p.m.
No. 7 Connecticut College at No. 2 Trinity – 3:00 p.m.
No. 6 Williams at No. 3 Middlebury – 3:00 p.m.
No. 5 Bates at No. 4 Bowdoin – 4:00 p.m. 

Semifinals – Saturday, March 1 at highest remaining seed (2:00 p.m./4:00 p.m.)

Championship – Sunday, March 2 at 12:00 p.m.