Lord Jeffs Survive Scare Against Bates, Improve to 20-0

Aaron Toomey '14 knocked down all 12 of his free throw attempts against Bates.

AMHERST, MA – The fifth-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team used a 25-for-28 performance from the charity stripe to get past Bates College, 74-68, Saturday afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium. The Lord Jeffs improve to 20-0 overall and 7-0 in the NESCAC, while the Bobcats drop to 12-11 (3-5 NESCAC).

The visitors led for the majority of the game, but Amherst took a 60-59 lead with 4:14 to play and held off a determined Bates squad down the stretch. Conor Meehan ’11 (Meriden, CT) finished with a game-high 21 points, marking his second 20-point performance of the weekend.

Amherst held a 10-7 lead after five minutes of first-half action but would be held to only six points over the course of the next 10 minutes, as the visitors used an 18-6 run to take command of the game. A ferocious Bates defense forced the Lord Jeffs to drive and the Bobcats worked the ball down low on offense, as the teams combined to attempt only 11 three-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

A three-pointer from Nick Schmiemann made it a 23-14 game in favor of Bates, but the Jeffs would close out the half on a 14-5 run when Meehan took charge of the floor. Meehan cut his team’s deficit to two points (26-24) on a deep pull-up three with under 2:00 to play, and the half came to a close when David Waller ’12 (Tampa, FL) stole the ball and passed it ahead to Meehan, who drove in for a layup that tied things up at 28-28, which is where the score stood at the break.

After taking only four shots from long range in the first half, Bates switched gears and opened the second period with Schmiemann and Mark Brust connecting from downtown. Amherst countered with a pair of triples from Taylor Barrise ’12 (Allendale, NJ) and would finally regain the lead (45-44) on a pair of Meehan free throws with 11:40 to play, marking the first time the Jeffs had led since 14 minutes remained in the first.

The teams would trade punches during an extremely exciting final 12 minutes of play, as the remainder of the game featured four ties and six lead changes. Amherst would take the lead for good when Barrise buried a three from the wing with 4:14 to go, as Bates cut its deficit to one point twice but could never pull back ahead. Aaron Toomey ’14 (Greensboro, NC) hit four big free throws in the final minute to help Amherst hang on for the 74-68 win.

While Amherst missed only three of its 28 attempts from the line, Bates was 14-for-25, including 7-for-16 in the first half. Toomey—who finished with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists—was particularly impressive with his 12-for-12 showing on free throws, while Allen Williamson ’13 (Saugus, MA) added 12 points and a 6-for-6 performance at the line. Barrise chipped in with nine points and a game-high eight rebounds for the Jeffs.

Brian Ellis had 17 points and four rebounds as one of four Bates players in double digits, as Brust and Luke Matarazzo each had 10, while Schmiemann finished with 11. The Bobcats held a 17-15 edge on the glass in the first half, but Amherst turned the tables by out-rebounding the visitors by a 26-8 margin in the second period. Bates committed only six turnovers in the game.

Meehan, Kurt Bennett ’11 (Placerville, CA) and Billy Butler ’11 (Brooklyn, NY) were honored before the start of the game. Amherst’s Class of 2011 has won 82 games and lost only 22, posting a 26-8 record in NESCAC play and a 45-5 mark in LeFrak Gymnasium.

Amherst will return to action Tuesday, Feb. 8, to host Brandeis University at 7 p.m. The Bobcats will wrap up their regular season on Saturday, Feb. 12, when they travel to take on Tufts.