Top-Ranked Jeffs Upset By No. 3 Brandeis 72-62

Senior Fletcher Walters led all Amherst players with 13 points.

WALTHAM, MA – The top-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team traveled east to face third-ranked Brandeis University this evening in the best regular season match-up in recent history. Amherst suffered its first loss of the season in the match-up of national powers, falling to the Judges on the road 72-62.

With the Judges missing star post player Steve DeLuca, Amherst looked to its tall front line to carry the team early. The Jeffs had a pair of scores from each Adolphe Coulibaly (Abidjian, Ivory Coast), Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) and Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) early on to trail 16-13 at the 12:43 mark.

The Lord Jeffs tied the game at 16-16 on a three pointer from sophomore forward Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, MN), only to have Brandeis answer with a bucket from Joe Coppens from three-point range to take the lead right back.

Amherst senior Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) provided a spark off the bench for the Jeffs in the first half, keeping a possession alive on the offensive glass and then burying a three to knot the game at 19-19 with 8:11 showing in the frame.

The Judges kept Amherst off-balance early on with a stifling full-court press in an attempt to tire senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) before being able to set up the offense.

With five and a half minutes remaining, Wheeler hit a pair of free throws to pace the Jeffs with seven points and tie the game once again at 23-23. Hopkins dropped in a lay-up in traffic to give Amherst its first lead in over a dozen minutes at 25-23, before grabbing a number of rebounds.

Despite being outsized all over the court, the Judges held a 14-12 advantage on the glass with two minutes remaining in the half. Brandeis’ Kwame Graves-Fulgham hit a tough reverse lay-up and got fouled in the act with eight seconds remaining. The senior guard made the free throw to give the Judges a 31-29 lead heading to the locker room.

At the half, Amherst’s Walters and Brandeis’ Kevin Olson each had eight points, while the two teams were nearly identical statistically. Each team had seven turnovers, and while Amherst held an 8-7 edge in assists, the Judges led the game by a pair.

One of the trademarks of the undefeated Lord Jeffs has been early second half scoring streaks, and for Amherst to be able to breathe easily, it would need just that.

With 18:52 left in the second half, Andrew Olson scored his first points of the night on a tough jumper on the left wing. Walters went coast-to-coast on the following Amherst possession to tie the game at 33-33.

After a 4-0 run from the Judges, Walters looked to repeat on his full court run, but was whistled for an offensive foul as he took to the air in the lane. After an 0-for-4 first half, Olson nailed a long two for his second consecutive bucket of the night, closing the deficit to 39-37.

Joe Coppens scored six consecutive points for Brandeis to give the Judges a 47-37 lead, before Hopkins responded for Amherst with another lay-up.

With 10:55 remaining in regulation, Amherst trailed 50-41, and would need a scoring run to get back into the game. Olson looked to power Amherst back into the game, and made his third consecutive shot to start the second half.

Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 was forced to call a timeout after Coppens nailed a three from the corner to push the Brandeis lead to 56-43 with just 8:17 to go.

Brandeis continued to pound the glass, and after the team’s 10th offensive rebound, Terrell Hollins converted on a three-point play the hard way to stretch the lead to 16 points. Amherst responded with quick scores from Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA), Wheeler and Olson to close to within 10 points with just 5:42 remaining. Goldsmith nailed a pair from the charity stripe to cut the lead in half to eight points.

With 4:20 remaining, Walters was fouled while shooting a three pointer, and knocked down all three free throws to cut the gap to 59-54. Christian Yemga ended the 11-0 Amherst run with a banked triple from the top of the key as the shot clock expired.

Over the next two minutes, Brandeis went on a 5-1 run to stretch back out to a 65-55 lead with just 1:44 to play.

Brandeis weathered an Amherst full-court press in the final two minutes and made free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.

The Judges closed out the win 72-62 to hand Amherst its first loss of the season. Brandeis improves to 8-1, while Amherst falls to 6-1 on the year, snapping an 11-game win streak. The Jeffs will return to action Wednesday at Lasell College for a 7 p.m. tip.