8th-Ranked Lord Jeffs Survive Scare at Emmanuel 63-61

From an Emmanuel College release

Sophomore Conor Meehan scored a career-high 21
points and made the game-winning free throws
in the win at Emmanuel.
BOSTON, MA – Amherst College survived a 63-61 scare from the host Emmanuel Saints in Tuesday night’s non-conference men’s basketball game played in the Jean Yawkey Center.  Amherst entered the game ranked 8th in the most recent D3hoops.com national poll and the Lord Jeffs narrowly came away with their 7th win, remaining undefeated this season.  Amherst improves to 7-0 with the win.

Tonight’s thriller featured 10 lead changes and 6 ties, before Amherst took away the 2-point win.  After two quick buckets and a pair of free throws from senior swingman Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, Calif.), Amherst was quickly up six, 8-2.  The Saints took their first lead of the game, 9-8, on a three-ball by senior guard Rob Williams-Hinton (Oak Park, Mich.).

The Lord Jeffs then regained the lead, 10-9, on a pair of free throws by sophomore point guard Conor Meehan (Meriden, Conn.).  Amherst would not relinquish the advantage until Emmanuel’s sophomore forward Chris Puzacke (Torrington, Conn.) netted a lay-up with 5:34 to play in the opening stanza, putting the Saints on top, 25-23.  

Emmanuel went on an 11-2 run that spanned from the 8-minute mark to the 1-minute mark in the first half and the Saints led 30-25.  During the run, the Saints defense held the Jeffs scoreless for three solid minutes.   With 59 seconds to play in the half, Meehan and Baskauskas hit back-to-back jumpers, to send the Jeffs into halftime trailing by one, 30-29.  During the opening half, the Saints’ defense forced 12 Amherst turnovers and the Saints scored 15 points off the Jeffs’ errors.

The second half consisted of seven lead changes.  With the score knotted at 39-all, the Saints went on an 8-1 run and held their largest lead of the game, 47-40, with 10:26 to play.  The Jeffs then put together and 15-5 run, that included back-to-back tri-fectas from Baskauskas, and gave Amherst a 55-52 lead with 5:37 on the clock.

The Jeffs hung on to the advantage, going up by as many as five points with 2:27 to go.  After a pair of free throws by Emmanuel’s senior forward Mack Spellman (Clinton, N.Y.), the Saints trailed, 61-58, with 1:27 remaining.  Amherst missed on two consecutive looks and Emmanuel regained possession on a Spellman defensive rebound with 36 tics left.  Senior forward Andres Bustamante (Amherst, Mass.) then found Spellman in the left corner, where he drained a three to tie the game at 61-61, with just 15 seconds to play.

An unfortunate Emmanuel foul led two freebies by Meehan, who was clutch from the line down the stretch for the Jeffs.  The Saints got one final look with 6.8 seconds left.  Spellman quickly inbounded to junior point guard Mike Jackson (New York, N.Y.) who signaled for an EC timeout at halfcourt with 4 tics on the clock.  The Saints got Spellman free for another three, but the senior came up short, and the Jeffs squeaked by with the 63-61 win.

Meehan led all scorers with a career-high 21 points.  The sophomore hit 11 of his 12 free throw attempts, while grabbing team-highs in rebounds (7) and assists (6).  Baskauskas played the full forty minutes for the Jeffs, scoring 18 points on 7-14 shooting, while draining two of his three attempts from beyond the arc.

Spellman’s 16 points and 7 boards was high for the Saints.  Spellman also connected on 2 of his 3 shots from long range.  Williams-Hinton added 12 points and 3 assists, while freshman guard Isaiah Duke (Albany, N.Y.) chipped in with 9 points and 3 steals in the effort.  As a team, the Saints shot 43.1% (25-58) from the floor and 55.6% (5-9) from three-point range.

Amherst will return to action after the winter break, playing on the road against Cal Tech on Dec. 31.