Lord Jeffs Run Away From Ephs in Second Half for 86-74 Win in NESCAC Semis

Amherst sophomore point guard Conor Meehan scored a game- and career-high 26 points.
MIDDLEBURY, VT – The 2nd-seeded Amherst College men’s basketball team took to the road for a NESCAC Championship tournament game for the first time since 2004, facing off with conference and Little Three archrival Williams College at top-seed Middlebury. Amherst out-scored Williams 55-43 in the second half for an 86-74 win to earn a spot against the host-Panthers in tomorrow’s title game.

Amherst picked up an 80-66 win over No. 7 Trinity last weekend in quarterfinal round action at home. Today’s game is the third meeting of the year for the Lord Jeffs and Ephs, with the road team having won each of the first two games.

Neither team scored on its first possession of the game, before Amherst first-year David Waller (Tampa, FL) scored on a nice post-move to open the day. Eph Blake Schultz knocked down a three in response, before Amherst senior Marcus Bradley (Latham, NY) drilled a fade-away jumper.

Williams took a 7-4 lead with 16:15 to play in the half as Schultz went 1-for-2 at the free throw line. Amherst senior co-captain Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) responded with a score to close the gap to one point. The Lord Jeffs grabbed the lead back when junior Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) found Waller for a three in transition.

After a score from Eph rookie James Wang, Waller hit his second three of the half to put the Jeffs up 14-12. Williams’s Schultz and Kevin Snyder hit back-to-back scores to put the Ephs up 16-14 with 10:39 to play.

Amherst trailed 20-15 with just over eight minutes to play in the half, before Amherst sophomore Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) scored on a nice reverse lay-up. After a steal by Bradley, Meehan scored again to close the gap to 20-19. Snyder responded for the Ephs with a left-handed score, putting Williams up 22-19.

The margin opened up to five points once again, before Meehan hit a three from the right corner with the shot clock running down. Schultz answered back on the next Eph possession, hitting a triple from the left wing. Not to be out-done, Meehan stepped up to hit a deep three to keep Amherst on pace at 27-25, with 3:52 to play.

On both sides of the two-minute mark, Bradley found Wheeler for deep threes on back-to-back possession, putting the Lord Jeffs up 31-29 and forcing Williams to call a timeout. Coming out of the stoppage, Williams rookie James Wang scored to tie the game 31-31. Neither team scored before the halftime whistle blew, with the two archrivals deadlocked.

At the break, Schultz and Meehan led their two squads with 10 points apiece, while Snyder and Waller each had eight points for their respective sides.

Amherst started the second half on fire with a Waller three, before senior co-captain Mike Holsey (Potomac, MD) put-home a rebound off a Meehan miss. Harlan Dodson answered for Williams, closing the gap with a three, before Waller scored again to put Amherst up 38-34.

First-year David Waller knocked down four three-pointers and had a career-high 16 points.
After a pair of Ethan Timmons-Schiffman free throws for Williams, Meehan finished off a three-point play to put Amherst up 43-36. After the Lord Jeff lead grew to eight points, Alex Rubin hit a three for Williams, only to see Amherst rookie Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, RI) answer with a three of his own.

With 12:36 to play, Holmes finished off a three-point play the old fashioned way, leaving Amherst ahead 50-41. Wheeler made a pair of free throws with 10:58 to play in the second half, keeping Amherst up 54-47.

Williams grabbed back-to-back scores from Troy Whittington and Wang, before Meehan made an amazing floater off a spin in the lane. On the next Eph trip, Snyder scored to close the gap to just three points with 9:36 to play.

Baskauskas finished off a give-and-go to Wheeler with a textbook pump-fake to elude an Eph defender for a deep two-point jumper. Williams called timeout, down six points, before Meehan scored again to put the Jeffs ahead 62-54 with 7:34 to go in regulation.

With 5:33 to play, Baskauskas made a very tough lay-up in between three Eph defenders en route to a three-point play, putting Amherst up 67-58. After a stop on the defensive end, Waller drained a three to open up a 70-58 lead with less than five minutes to play.

Wang and Baskauskas traded a pair of free throws, before Rubin finished off a three-point play for Williams to close to 72-63. Whittington made a nice flip-in lay-up to close Amherst’s lead to 72-65 with 2:48 to play.

A pair of Meehan free throws with 1:55 to play put Amherst up 75-66, and gave the Lord Jeff point guard 20 points on the day. Wang hit a jumper for Williams, before Bradley stepped up for a pair of free throws. Meehan made another pair at the line, before Schultz hit a long two.

With 1:00 to play, Williams forced a turnover from Amherst in the backcourt, leading to a pair of Snyder free throws to close the gap to 79-72. After Wheeler took his turn making a pair at the line, Williams turned the ball over before Meehan made another pair of foul shots.

Only another few free throws stood between Amherst and an 86-74 win over the Ephs. The win punched Amherst’s ticket to tomorrow’s NESCAC Championship game, marking the eighth time in nine seasons that Amherst will play for the conference title.

Meehan finished the night with a game- and career-high 26 points to lead five Lord Jeffs in double-digits, while grabbing seven rebounds. Waller (16), Wheeler (12), Baskauskas (11) and Holmes (10) helped provide a balanced attack for Amherst. Snyder finished with a team-high 18 points for Williams, while Schultz and Wang combined for 30 points and 12 boards.

Amherst will square off against top-seeded Middlebury tomorrow for the 2009 NESCAC title at 12 p.m.