Lord Jeffs Handed First Loss at Middlebury, 69-61

Pete Kaasila '13 had 10 points and five rebounds for Amherst.

Courtesy of Middlebury College

MIDDLEBURY, VT – The third-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team finally met its match in seventh-ranked Middlebury College, as the Lord Jeffs' winning streak came to a halt at 21 games with a 69-61 setback to the Panthers Friday evening before a crowd of 1,150 in Pepin Gym.

Amherst drops to 21-1 (7-1 NESCAC), while Middlebury improves to 19-1 (7-1). Both teams wrap up their conference slates tomorrow when Middlebury hosts Trinity and Amherst visits Williams.

The game was a defensive battle, with the nation’s top field goal percentage defense holding Amherst to just 31.1 percent from the floor. Middlebury shot 36.4 percent in the game, going 4-of-15 from behind the arc and 25-of-32 from the free throw line. The Jeffs, who were playing just their sixth road game of the season, connected on three of their 12 attempts from long distance, while knocking down 20 of 25 from the charity stripe.

The first half featured seven of the game’s 13 ties, as neither team led by more than four points in the opening 20 minutes. Trailing by one with 3:32 remaining, Nolan Thompson hit a two and then a three to give the Panthers a 30-26 lead. Taylor Barrise ’12 (Allendale, NJ) knocked down three free throws for the Lord Jeffs late in the half to leave Middlebury with a 30-29 lead at the intermission.

Amherst’s Willy Workman ’13 (Northampton, MA) went 3-for-3 from the line at the 14:53 mark of the second half to give the Jeffs their largest lead of the game at 43-39. Middlebury answered with a 6-0 run, with four free throws from Ryan Sharry and a pair from Andrew Locke giving the lead back to the hosts at 45-43.

Locke broke a 45-45 tie midway through the second half when he followed a missed shot with a thunderous one-handed put-back. Locke and Sharry worked a give-and-go minutes later, with Locke throwing down another dunk to give the Panthers a 51-49 advantage with 9:12 remaining.

The Panthers led 56-54 with 5:00 to play but would not make another field goal in the game, as Amherst sent them to the line for 18 free throws. Middlebury connected on 13 of the 18, leading by as many as nine on its way to the 69-61 win.

Sharry scored a game-high 18 points, also pulling down a game-best 13 boards to go along with a career-high five assists. Jake Wolfin added 16 points and Thompson scored a dozen, while Locke had 11 points, seven boards and six blocks.

Barrise paced the Jeffs with 15 points and eight rebounds, Workman added 13 with seven boards, and Peter Kaasila ’13 (Plaistow, NH) chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds. Friday’s result marked only the second time Amherst has been held below 70 points this season, while the Panthers have allowed only two opponents to eclipse the 70-point mark. The Jeffs’ 21-0 start marked the second longest win streak in program history.

Middlebury, Amherst and Williams are all in the running for the NESCAC Championship’s top seed. Fans planning on attending tomorrow’s 2 p.m. game between the Lord Jeffs and Ephs should note the seating limits of Chandler Gym.