Amherst Edges Wesleyan 87-74 in Little Three Opener

Willy Workman '13 set or tied career highs in
points (20), rebounds (10) and assists (5).

AMHERST, MA – The 17th-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team opened up 2010-11 Little Three play this evening against NESCAC rival Wesleyan University in non-conference action. The Lord Jeffs out-scored the Cardinals by at least half a dozen points in each half to earn an 87-74 win. Amherst remains unbeaten at 11-0 on the year, while Wesleyan falls to 7-6 overall.

Led by a career night from Amherst sophomore Willy Workman (Northampton, MA) and another strong performance by first-year Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, NC) the Lord Jeffs held off a late Wesleyan charge for the win. Workman set career highs in points (20) and rebounds (10), while tying his career high in assists (5) as Toomey led four Jeffs in double digits with 22 points. Peter Kaasila (Plaistow, NH) and Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, RI) each scored 13 points as well.

With 18:19 to play, Workman drilled a deep three from the right side to give the Jeffs an early 6-4 lead. Wesleyan standout Shasha Brown answered with a three-point play in traffic to put the Cardinals up a point in response. With 14:45 to play, Amherst took a 13-9 lead as Holmes made his third straight bucket to start the game.

After a Wesleyan timeout, Kaasila scored inside for Amherst and Taylor Barrise (Allendale, NJ) hit a three to stretch the lead to 20-11. The Cardinals responded with a Matt Hogan score, and a triple by Brown. The Lord Jeffs got a put-back score by Toomey and then caused a shot clock violation with a 24-16 lead to force Wesleyan into calling a timeout with 9:38 to play. Wesleyan closed the gap to 26-20, but neither team scored for over two minutes until another Kaasila score in the post.

Toomey scored five straight points for Amherst as the Jeffs opened up a 33-24 margin with 1:02 remaining in the half. After trading a pairs of free throws, Chad LaBove made a layup at the buzzer to leave the Cardinals down 35-28 at the break.

Amherst’s lead grew to a dozen points at the 18:21 mark of the second half on a three by Holmes, but Wesleyan came roaring back with a 12-2 run capped by back-to-back steals and transition layups. By the mid-point of the second half, Wesleyan had played six minutes of even basketball with Amherst and remained down just 53-50. As the shot-clock expired, Workman stole momentum back for the Jeffs with a double-clutch three from two steps behind the arc.

After a timeout by Wesleyan, Barrise hit a three and Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT) scored in the paint to give the Jeffs a 61-54 lead. Toomey scored on a tough baseline drive, but Brown responded with a triple for the Cardinals. Wesleyan called another timeout with 5:13 to play, still trailing 65-57.

After the stoppage, Jason Mendell hit a three for the Cardinals, but Workman answered two trips later with a three-point play the old fashioned way. After trading free throws, Brown and Toomey traded threes to leave the Jeffs up 73-65 with just 3:01 remaining.

After a Barrise three pointer, Toomey made a layup to put Amherst back up double-digits. In the final two minutes, Amherst made the necessary free throws to close out the win 87-74. Amherst made 22-of-25 free throws to seal the win, shooting over 50% from the floor and three-point range as well. Brown and Mendell led the Cardinals with 22 and 20 respectively, while Derick Beresford added 11 points.

Amherst returns to action on Saturday afternoon against Williams College at home for the conclusion of Little Three play.  The men’s teams play at 2 p.m., with the women’s teams tipping off at 4 p.m.