Jeffs Win Season Opener 103-79 Over Hunter College

Senior Brandon Jones led all Jeff scorers with 15 points.

AMHERST, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team opened the 2007-08 season this evening in day one of the seventh annual Ken Wright ’52 Memorial Invitational Tournament. The defending national champions tipped off against visiting Hunter College in the night’s first game, taking a 103-79 win.

The Lord Jeffs took the opening tip and an early lead on a bucket by senior center Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY). Hunter tied the game at 2-2 with a put-back from Bobby Kiernan. The tie lasted for just over a minute, and was the only time of the game that Amherst did not hold a lead.

By the five minute mark, Amherst had built a small but sure eight point lead, capping a 7-2 run with a lay-up from senior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ). Junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) pushed the Amherst margin into double digits with 13:11 remaining in the opening half with a back door cut that he finished with a lay-in.

With 9:02 left in the stanza, Amherst first-year Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) was the key to a 10-0 run by the Jeffs, racking up four points, an assist and a pair of steals during the stretch. In the final minutes of the opening half of play, head coach David Hixon ’75 was able to go deep into the bench and still stretch the lead to 53-33 heading to the locker room.

Leading all scorers in the first half was Amherst senior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) with 11 points, while Jones was close behind with 10. Joseph DeLuca led the Hawks with 8 points, while Kiernan had 7 at the break.

Amherst had an impressive 17 assists on 20 field goals in the first half, but had an uncharacteristically high nine turnovers in the frame. The Jeffs looked to show a large early season crowd why they were the defending champs coming out of halftime, with the message being delivered by the 6’10” Hopkins. On three of the first four field goals of the second half, Hopkins delivered powerful dunks, including a highlight reel slam on an alley-oop from senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA).

Olson, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Year and NABC National Co-Player of the Year, was on limited playing time in the game as the Jeffs seemed to have the game under control early. The point guard finished the night with nine points and a game-high 11 assists.

Senior captain Andrew Olson had nine points and 11 asissts in just 20 minutes of action.

The second half showcased a number of newcomers on the Amherst squad, including the debuts of first-years Kurt Bennett (Placerville, NY), Billy Butler (Brooklyn, NY) and junior walk-on Ben Kaplan (Chicago, IL). The young players looked strong in their first minutes wearing the purple and white, as Amherst’s future seems bright.

Leading all scorers was DeLuca from Hunter with 19 points, while Jones led Amherst with 15, with five teammates dropping home double-digits in points. Walters was impressive with 11 points and 13 rebounds, a dozen of which came in the first half.

When the final whistle blew, Amherst registered a 103-79 win and moved to 1-0 on the season, advancing to tomorrow’s 3 p.m. championship game against the winner of Purchase and Southern Vermont Colleges. Hunter dropped to 0-1 on the year with the loss and will play in the 1 p.m. consolation game.