Amherst Set for Big Showdown with RIC

Contact: Justin Long

Jeff Holmes '12 had 23 points on 8-of-10
shooting during a 2010 game against RIC.

AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College will face one of its toughest tests of the regular season when Rhode Island College comes to town this Tuesday for a matchup between two of the region's top men’s basketball teams.

Amherst (17-2, 6-0 NESCAC) and RIC (15-3, 6-3 LEC) have been regular opponents since the 2006-07 season, with the Lord Jeffs holding a 5-1 edge during that stretch. They have met twice in the NCAA Tournament in the past five years, but Amherst ended RIC’s season on each occasion.

With both teams off to outstanding starts, Tuesday’s matchup could resemble the NCAA Tournament thriller the Jeffs and Anchormen played in last year in Williamstown. Amherst led by 11 with 7:55 remaining in the second half, but RIC used a 12-0 run to take a 65-64 lead with 3:27 to go. The Jeffs regrouped and scored 11 of the game’s next 13 points en route to a 78-74 win, with Aaron Toomey ’14 accounting for nine of Amherst’s 11 points during that crucial stretch.

Toomey finished with 22 points in his first encounter with RIC, while David Waller ’12 added 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Jeffs. Mike Akinrola ’12 had 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting for the Anchormen, with Mason Choice ’12 contributing 17 points, four boards, four assists and four steals.

A key for the Lord Jeffs this Tuesday will be whether they can contain Akinrola, a 6’6 center with the ability to take over games. In his past five outings he is averaging 23.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 68.9 percent from the floor, notably putting up 36 points (17-of-24 FG) and 13 boards in a loss to Western Connecticut. In two career games against Amherst, Akinrola is averaging 19.5 points on 16-of-23 shooting (.696).

Mike Akinrola '12 is averaging 23.8 points
and 8.6 rebounds in his past five games.

Looking to keep Akinrola at bay will be Jeff Holmes ’12 and Pete Kaasila ’13, who had one of their best games as a one-two punch two years ago against RIC. The two big men combined for 35 points and 16 rebounds on 13-of-15 shooting during that 2010 meeting, as Holmes finished with 23 points and Kaasila was a perfect 5-for-5 overall.

The Jeffs will also need to keep an eye on Choice, a 6’4 forward who is averaging 11.9 points and 5.2 rebounds this year. Waller has been on a roll for Amherst as of late, averaging 13.0 points while shooting 51.9 percent from the field in his past five games. Senior captain Taylor Barrise has regained his rhythm from long range, as he shot 51.9 percent behind the arc during the Jeffs' five-game road trip.

Barrise will be gunning for a program record this Tuesday, as his 196 made three-pointers leave him only two shy of the Amherst mark of 198 (Jamal Wilson ’97).

Each of the Anchormen’s three losses this year has come on the road to a top-tier Little East Conference team, as they are 10-0 at home but have dropped three of their past four games away from Rhode Island. The Lord Jeffs have won 23 consecutive games in LeFrak Gymnasium, leaving them only one win shy of tying the program record.

Tuesday’s outcome will have a significant effect on the NCAA’s regional rankings, as New England features several strong teams fighting for a spot in this year’s national tournament. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in LeFrak Gymnasium. Fans unable to attend will be able to follow all of the action on JeffCast.

TUESDAY, JAN. 31 * 7 P.M.
LeFrak Gymnasium * Amherst, Mass.

#6 Amherst (17-2) vs. RIC (15-3)