Jeffs Hang on for 66-64 Win Over Wesleyan

Jeff Holmes '12 scored all eight of his
points when it mattered most for Amherst.

Contact: Justin Long

AMHERST, Mass. – Jeff Holmes '12 and Aaron Toomey '14 came alive down the stretch to help the sixth-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team hang on for a 66-64 win over Wesleyan University Friday evening in LeFrak Gymnasium.

Wesleyan trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half but stormed back to take its first lead of the period with 4:16 remaining. The lead changed hands four times in the final minutes, but Toomey led Amherst to the win by accounting for 10 of his team’s last 14 points thanks to a clutch 8-for-9 showing at the line.

Toomey led all players with 22 points, 15 of which came on free throws. Willy Workman ’13 added 11 points, 11 rebounds and three assists for Amherst (11-1, 1-0 NESCAC), which increased its home winning streak to 21 games.

Jason Mendell ’12 paced Wesleyan (10-3, 0-1 NESCAC) with 18 points and was 3-for-3 from long range, while Derick Beresford ’13 added 10 points and five rebounds for the Cardinals. Shasha Brown ’13 sat out much of the second half with foul trouble but still finished with 11 points, three boards and three assists.

Both teams looked sluggish during a first half that featured 21 turnovers and a combined 10-for-21 performance from the free throw line. Wesleyan was 1-for-8 from beyond the arc and shot 25.0 percent overall (7-for-28), while the Jeffs turned the ball over 13 times and missed eight of their attempts at the line (7-for-15).

Workman finished the first period with seven points and eight rebounds as one of the half’s bright spots. The Jeffs trailed 9-4 in the early going but used a 19-4 run to bump their lead to 28-18 at the break, holding the Cardinals to only two field goals in the final 10 minutes.

Aaron Toomey '14 scored 10 of Amherst's
final 14 points, finishing with a game-high 22.

Brown entered the weekend averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game, but he picked up his fourth foul with 16:39 remaining and sat out the next 10 minutes. The Cardinals responded with a 12-2 run that tied things up at 35-35, with a three-pointer by Julian Harris ’14 capping off the spurt and forcing Amherst into a timeout with 14:07 still to play.

After neither team scored for nearly three minutes, Taylor Barrise ’12 knocked down a three-pointer to give the Jeffs a 42-37 lead. Mendell scored five of Wesleyan’s next seven points to keep the visitors in the game, but the Cardinals couldn’t find a solution for Holmes, who had three put-backs in a span of 3:11.

Holmes’ third put-back was followed by a thunderous two-handed dunk from Allen Williamson ’13, which ignited the home crowd and seemed to be the solution for a resilient Wesleyan squad. The Cardinals still weren’t fazed, though, as Mike Callaghan ’13 hit a three and Matt Callori ’13 buried a pair of free throws to give Wesleyan a 53-52 lead with 4:16 to go.

Toomey kept the Jeffs alive by driving to the lane and getting to the line, but it was a layup by David Kalema ’14 that broke a 59-59 tie and sparked a pivotal 5-0 run that proved to be the difference. Toomey put the game out of reach by making it a 66-61 game with three seconds to play, and Bryan Galvin ’15 connected on a three-pointer from the wing as time expired to bring the final score to 66-64.

Wesleyan was 5-for-6 from long range (.833) and 16-for-26 overall (.615) in the second half, but Holmes and Toomey proved to be too much for the Cardinals in their upset attempt. Toomey was 15-for-18 at the line, but the rest of the Jeffs were only 5-for-14.

The Jeffs have defeated the Cardinals in five consecutive meetings, but Wesleyan will get a rematch on Jan. 17 in Middletown. Both teams will return to action Saturday at 4 p.m., with Amherst hosting Connecticut College and Wesleyan traveling to take on Trinity.