Men's Basketball Routs Ursinus 84-58 with Olson Triple-Double; Will Play in National Championship Tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Andrew Olson had a triple-double
with 21 points, 10 boards, and
10 assists in the win.

By Alex Kantor

AMHERST, MA – The defending national champion Amherst College men’s basketball team took to the familiar court of the Salem Civic Center this evening against Ursinus College in the first of two National Semifinals. Amherst ran away for an 84-58 win to advance to tomorrow afternoon’s 4 p.m. National Championship game.

Amherst, playing in their fourth Final Four in the last five seasons, will look to becoming just the second team in the last ten years to repeat as National Champions. The Bears of Ursinus are playing in Salem for the first time ever, and try to punch a ticket to the title game for the first time in program history.

Amherst and Ursinus tipped off just after 5 p.m.; the Jeffs with their usual starting line-up of seniors Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA), Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI), Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) and Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) alongside junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA).

The Bears controlled the tip, and quickly pushed the ball inside to 6’10” center Michael Shema, guarded by Hopkins. In a battle of two of the tallest players in Division III, Hopkins won the first face-off as the game’s opening attempt rimmed out.

After a turnover from Jones on Amherst’s first offensive possession, the Lord Jeffs drilled their next four shots, without as much as touching the rim, to jump out to a 9-5 lead in three minutes of action. At the 14:15 mark, Baskauskus hit a jumper from just inside the arc to keep the Jeffs up four points at 11-7.

As play approached the mid-point of the first half, Amherst was able to repeatedly create second-chance opportunities off offensive rebounds. In just the first handful of minutes, Olson already had a career-high seven rebounds as a trio of long shots caromed back to the point guard.

With 8:16 to play, Amherst had opened up a 23-12 lead after a pair of free throws by Olson. Ursinus showed signs during the next few minutes of cutting into the deficit, but Amherst responded with another three from Walters, this time on a behind-the-back pass by Olson.

With today's win, Amherst will have a chance to repeat
last year's title with another National Championship.

At the 2:46 mark, Ursinis head coach Kevin Small called a full timeout, with his team trailing 36-24. Coming out of the timeout, the Bears through a pass into their own backcourt, and were forced to grab control for a violation and give the inbounds opportunity under the hoop. The inbounds pass was floated to Hopkins cutting the hoop for a two-handed tomahawk slam over Shema.

In the final minute of the first half, Amherst created one final possession off a miss by Bears’ leading scorer Nick Shattuck, to get Walters a final score. Walters finished the half leading all players with 14 points to give Amherst a 42-33 lead, while John Noonan kept Ursinus in the game with a dozen first-half points. Olson nearly recorded a triple-double in the first half with nine points, seven assists, and eight rebounds.

The Jeffs started the second half right where they left off with a beautiful three-ball from Jones on the left wing. The triple put Amherst up 45-31, before the Bears responded with a tough finish on a drive from Noonan.

Amherst stretched the lead to 58-37 by the 15:15 mark of the second half on a deep three from Olson, after Amherst’s tenth offensive rebound. The rout was on as the nine minute mark of the second half came, and went. Olson drilled back-to-back three balls to put Amherst up 77-45 just after that point.

With eight minutes to play, Olson found his 10th rebound, and picked up his first career triple-double with plenty of time to play. At the 5:18 mark, Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 took Olson out of the game to a standing ovation by Amherst’s share of the 2,113 person crowd. Olson finished the semifinal with another spectacular Salem performance, scoring 21 points, grabbing a career-high 10 boards, and dishing out 10 helpers.

Amherst held onto their lead through the final quarter of the game on strong play from the line-up of the future. Juniors Marcus Bradley (Latham, NY), Glenn Wong (Leverett, MA), Michael Holsey (Potomac, MD), and Ben Kaplan (Glencoe, IL) all played well down the stretch as did first-years Kurt Bennett (Placerville, CA) and Billy Butler (Brooklyn, NY).

Time ticked away as Amherst held on for an 84-58 win, punching their ticket for tomorrow’s National Championship game and a chance to repeat. Olson was joined by three teammates in double-digits as Walters ended the night with 18 points and eight boards, while Baskauskas and Jones poured in 17 and 11 points, respectively.

The Ursinus Bears put a trio of players in double-digits, led by 18 points from Noonan, and a double-double from Shema at 13 and 10. Shattuck finished with 10 points, while Rmey Cousart grabbed 10 boards. The Bears will play in tomorrow’s 1:30 p.m. consolation game to wrap up their season after today’s result.

Amherst will await the finish of semifinal number two to see if they will face top-ranked Hope College or No. 11 Washington University of St. Louis. Tip-off for the title game is scheduled for 4 p.m., and will be once again have audio broadcast on WAMH, and be live on television on the cable network CSTV.