Jeffs End Spectacular Season with 77-71 Loss at Williams

Courtesy of Williams College

Amherst finishes the 2010-11 season with a 25-4 record.
(Photo by Sam Masinter '04)

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Amherst College men's basketball team made a valiant effort in an attempt to return to the NCAA "Final Four" for a fifth time, but the Lord Jeffs had their spectacular season come to a close with a 77-71 loss at the hands of Williams College in the national tournament’s quarterfinal round.

Losing to Williams certainly isn’t the ideal way for an Amherst team to finish a season, but this year’s Lord Jeff group was one of the most outstanding in program history. Amherst (25-4) began the year with a 21-game winning streak—the second longest in school history—and became the sixth team to win at least 25 games. The Jeffs won all 17 of their home games and were consistently among the nation's leaders in several statistical categories.

Closing out their careers on Saturday were Conor Meehan ’11 (Meriden, CT), Kurt Bennett ’11 (Placerville, CA) and Billy Butler ’11 (Brooklyn, NY), who posted a record of 87-26 while at Amherst. Meehan’s 360 assists rank third on the program’s all-time list, while his 1,017 points are the 23rd most ever recorded by a Lord Jeff.

With Amherst and Williams splitting the regular season series, Saturday’s rubber match was guaranteed to be entertaining.  Led by their 24 points from behind the arc and 21 more from the charity stripe, though, the Ephs fended off multiple Amherst comebacks to hang on for the win.

The Ephs and Lord Jeffs both started the game off from behind the arc. At the 16:30 mark, Harlan Dodson nailed a three-pointer from the right corner for the Ephs, but Meehan responded on the next Lord Jeff possession with a long ball from the top of the key. 

At the 7:45 mark, Troy Whittington backed down his defender and dished the ball to Nate Robertson, who knocked down the long ball to push the Eph lead to double digits. A few Amherst possessions later, Whittington stole the ball and converted a three-point play to push the Eph lead to 12.

Just under a minute later, Meehan had a three-point play of his own for the Jeffs after being fouled on a layup to cut the lead to 11. At the 4:24 mark, Allen Williamson ’13 (Saugus, MA) took a charge for Amherst and made a layup on the ensuing offensive possession to cut the deficit to single digits. With 3:29 to play, Taylor Barrise ’12 (Allendale, NJ) buried a three to cut the Eph lead to 30-24 and force the Ephs to take their first timeout. With the Ephs unable to convert out of the timeout, Aaron Toomey ’14 (Greensboro, NC) pulled up in transition and nailed a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to cut the lead again.

The Class of 2011 posted an 87-26 record at Amherst.
(Photo by Sam Masinter '04)

The Ephs ended the half with the momentum, as Robertson responded for the Ephs by driving along the baseline for two points. After a James Klemm three-pointer, Taylor Epley drove to the hoop for two to push the Eph lead to 39-34 heading into the break. The Ephs were paced by Robertson’s 13 points in the first half, while Meehan led Amherst with 12.

Amherst came roaring back when David Waller ’12 (Tampa, FL) hit a long three from the left wing to cut the Eph lead to one with 13:50 left in the game. Just under a minute later, Waller dished the ball down low to Jeff Holmes ’12 (Saunderstown, RI), who finished to give the Jeffs their first lead since they were up 5-4 early. At the 12:30 mark, Meehan connected from long range to push the lead to four. 

With 10:20 to play, Klemm hit a three to give the Ephs back their lead at 55-54. On the following possession, Klemm was fouled while shooting another long ball from the top, using a four-point play to push the Eph advantage to five. A few possessions later, Peter Kaasila ’13 (Plaistow, NH) responded for Amherst with a layup that cut the deficit to six. Kaasila then hit a hook shot and had a put-back off a rebound with 3:25 to play to make it a two-point game.

With the score close in the final minutes, Whittington responded for the Ephs with a dunk that gave Williams a four-point lead. The field goal was the first for the Ephs in more than eight minutes, a span during which they added 12 points from the free throw line. With 24 seconds on the clock, Robertson hit another three with the shot clock winding down to push the Eph lead to seven. Amherst was unable to rally, as the Ephs hung on to secure their trip to a second consecutive “Final Four.”

Leading the way tonight for the Ephs was Robertson with 22 points, while Klemm and Wang added 17 and 15, respectively. Meehan paced Amherst with 17, while Waller and Kaasila each had 16 for the Jeffs, who shot 39.7 percent from the field.

Toomey finished his rookie campaign with 362 points, just one shy of the program record held by John Pavelski ’98 (363). Toomey also recorded the fifth highest single-season free throw percentage (.864) in school history, while Kaasila’s 60.6 field goal percentage is the program’s 10th best mark.