Lord Jeffs Fall at Florida Memorial University, 86-79

Steve Wheeler5
Sophomore Steven Wheeler scored a career-high 15 points.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – The fourth-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team returned to action this evening on the campus of NAIA opponent Florida Memorial University. In the first game of the second semester for any Amherst team, the Lord Jeffs dropped a tough 86-79 result to the Lions for the team’s second loss of the year.

Amherst jumped out to an early 10-6 lead after just three minutes of play on back-to-back three pointers from senior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and junior Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA). The Lions responded with a run of their own to tie the game at 12-12 five minutes into the first half.

Walters followed up a block on the defensive end with a nice baseline jumper to cut a four-point Lion lead in half at 20-18 halfway through the stanza. After another Florida Memorial basket, Walters finished a tough three-point play to bring Amherst within a single point.

Sophomore Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) nailed a deep three off a screen to hand Amherst the lead back at 24-22. The two teams traded buckets, with FMU’s Tramaine Stevens knotting the game up at 28-28 with just five minutes remaining until halftime.

A pair of free throws from senior Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY), with 3:50 to go in the half, brought Amherst to within two points. After another Wheeler three, Hopkins got loose on a breakaway to give Amherst a 35-34 lead.

A quick pair of scores from the Lions stole the lead back, before Hopkins finished another three-point play to tie the game at 38 apiece with less than a minute to play. FMU held for the last shot, but Walters drew an offensive foul to grab possession back for Amherst. A Wheeler three attempt from long range rimmed out to close the half with the score tied at 38-38.

Hopkins paced Amherst with 15 first-half points, while FMU’s Andre Thomas led all scorers with 20 points before the break. The Lions held a 19-13 edge on the boards, grabbing 10 first-half offensive rebounds.

To start the second half, an Amherst missed three pointer gave FMU a breakaway, but Walters hustled back all the way to the rim to block the lay-up attempt out of play. With 17:18 to play in the second half, FMU opened up a 49-43 lead on a pair of Stevens free throws.

Baskauskas score five consecutive points for Amherst to close the gap to 52-48 with 15:30 to play. FMU went on a 7-0 run in less than a two-minute span to take the largest lead of the game at 59-48.

Amherst responded with a 6-0 run, sparked by solid team defense, to close the gap to 61-54 with 11:23 to play. In a half of scoring runs, Wheeler ended a 6-0 Lion spurt with a three pointer from the left wing. Baskauskas knocked down another triple for the Lord Jeffs to close the deficit to 68-62.

After a pair of FMU free throws, Amherst senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) nailed a deep three to close to 74-70. The Lions responded with four straight points to extend the lead to 78-72, before senior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) hit a deep jump shot.

After a Hopkins reverse lay-up, Amherst took a jump ball possession leading to a Walters jumper. On the ensuing possession, Hopkins stood in to draw a charge with the Lord Jeffs trailing 80-76 and just 1:37 showing on the clock.

With 33.2 seconds remaining, Wheeler knocked down one of two from the line to close the gap to 80-77. FMU’s Thomas responded with a pair of free throws to extend the lead to five points. Olson missed an off-balance three point with less than 16 seconds remaining in regulation.

After a Lion timeout on the rebound, Wheeler was forced to foul Thomas with just 9.5 seconds remaining. The NAIA’s fifth-leading scorer hit another pair of free throws to increase his total to a game-high 32 points.

Olson made a pair of his own free throws with 7.8 seconds left to close to 84-79. After another Amherst foul, Thomas made a pair to bring his total to 30 points on the night, closing out the game with an 86-79 loss for the Lord Jeffs. Hopkins led the Lord Jeffs with 21 points, while Wheeler and Walters each poured in 15 points.

The defeat is just the second of the year for Amherst, who falls to 7-2 on the season, while Florida Memorial improves to 6-5. The Lord Jeffs will return to action against Babson College next week upon return to campus for the spring semester.