Men's Basketball Preview
Contact: Ben Badua
As winter storm Nemo closes in, several changes have been made to the schedule. Originally slated to tip-off with its archrivals on Friday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m., Amherst will now face Williams on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. The Jeffs’ matchup with Middlebury on Saturday, Feb. 9 has been postponed to Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m.
Amherst Athletics will provide a free fan bus to Williamstown for the men's and women's basketball doubleheader on a first come, first serve basis. It is open to any students, faculty, staff, fans and families wishing to attend the game. Boarding will begin at noon in front of Alumni Gymnasium with a scheduled departure time of 12:15 p.m. The bus will depart Williams after the conclusion of the women's game.
Going 3-2 against Williams over the last five meetings, Amherst has won each of the last three matchups, including an 83-67 win over the Ephs in LeFrak earlier this season. Aaron Toomey ’14 lifted the Jeffs to a 67-65 victory the last time the Purple & White visited Williamstown, knocking down a pair of go-ahead free throws with just 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation.
Going 4-4 against the Panthers over the last eight meetings, Amherst has not won at Middlebury since the 2007-08 campaign. The Jeffs did take both of last year’s meetings in LeFrak, winning a 77-75 overtime thriller in the regular season finale before once again clipping the Panthers, 71-69, in the NESCAC championship game.
ON THE LINE
This week’s upcoming games against Williams and Middlebury could have major postseason implications with all three squads coming down the home stretch with a combined 60-5 overall record and 23-1 league mark. Amherst and Williams are tied atop the NESCAC standings at 8-0, while Middlebury remains in the hunt for the top seed with its lone conference loss coming by way of a 64-63 thriller in Williamstown on Jan. 26. Just days earlier, the Jeffs upended the Ephs (83-67) in non-conference action at LeFrak.
Winners of 14-straight, Amherst currently sits second in the NCAA regional rankings and sixth in the d3hoops.com top-25 poll. Capturing four-consecutive wins following the setback to its archrivals, Williams sits third in the northeast region and seventh in d3hoops, while Middlebury, also winners of four-straight, rank fourth in the region and fifth nationally.
SCOUTING AMHERST (20-2, 8-0 NESCAC)
The league’s highest scoring team (84.4), Amherst has been clicking offensively, shooting 52.0 percent from the floor and 48.0 percent from three-point range over its last three games. Point guard Aaron Toomey ’14 has led the charge, averaging 29.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists during the stretch en route to NESCAC Player of the Week honors.
The team’s leading scorer (17.5 ppg), while ranking third in the conference in assists per game (4.9), the junior shot a blistering 63.9 (23-for-36) percent from the field and 61.1 (11-for-18) percent from behind the arc last week. Also going 93.9 percent (31-for-33) from the charity stripe, he remains on pace to break the school’s single season record for free throw shooting percentage (.910), which he set last season. Excelling in the win over the Ephs in late January, he hit seven of his 14 shots, finishing with 20 points, five assists and four rebounds.
Coming into his own, senior center Peter Kaasila has established himself as a force down low, averaging 16.0 points and 7.8 rebounds over his last five outings, while shooting 65.5 percent from the floor. Currently tied for first in the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (65.7), he scored a career-high 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting against Trinity on Jan. 26 before again topping the benchmark just one week later, pouring in 26 points, while connecting on 11-of-13 attempts against Tufts.
A versatile swingman, Willy Workman ’13 has continued to do a little bit of everything for the Jeffs, averaging 11.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals, while joining Toomey as the second player this season (26th overall) to surpass the 1,000-point plateau. Putting forth a solid all-around showing against the Ephs on Jan. 23, he set the tone for the Purple & White with a career-high 24 points, while also collecting 11 rebounds and four assists. Workman also made his presence felt in last year’s NESCAC Championship game against Middlebury, hitting 7-of-11 shots for 16 points and eight rebounds.
Rounding out Amherst’s starting lineup, Allen Williamson ’13 and Tom Killian ’14 have combined to average nearly 18 points and eight rebounds per game, while David Kalema ’14 gives the Jeffs a boost off the bench, averaging 9.5 points on over 50 percent shooting. First-year Connor Green ’16 has also contributed as an important reserve, averaging 10.3 points per game, while shooting over 40 percent from long distance. As a team, Amherst ranks second in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage (40.0 percent).
SCOUTING WILLIAMS (20-2, 8-0 NESCAC)
Shooting a conference-best 51.0 percent from the floor, Williams sits second in the NESCAC in scoring offense posting 81.1 points per game. Taylor Epley ’14 headlines the Eph attack, ranking second in the league in scoring (18.9 ppg) and fourth in three-point field-goal percentage (46.2). Against the Jeffs on Jan. 23, Epley hit six of his 17 attempts, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Fourth in the NESCAC in scoring (17.5), Michael Mayer ’14 gives Williams a strong presence on the low block, topping the conference in rebounding (8.4), while also sitting third in field-goal percentage (57.9). The center paced the Ephs against Amherst the last time out, going 7-for-10 from the field with 21 points. Nate Robinson ’13, who sits among the league leaders in assists per game (4.8), also reached double-digits against the Jeffs, scoring 11 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
SCOUTING MIDDLEBURY (20-1, 7-1 NESCAC)
Balanced on both ends of the floor, Middlebury ranks amongst the league’s leaders in three-point field-goal percentage (40.5 - 1st), field-goal percentage (50.6 - 2nd) and points per game (80.0 - 3rd), while sitting second in scoring defense (63.2) and third in opponent three-point percentage (32.4).
Peter Lynch ’13 leads the team in points, pouring in 15.5 per outing, while tying for the league-lead in field-goal percentage (65.7). Nolan Thompson ’13 ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg) and fifth in the NESCAC in three-point shooting (45.9), while Hunter Merryman ’15 can also help spread the floor, hitting 54.7 percent of his shots and a conference-best 52.5 percent of his three-pointers.
Guards Jake Wolfin ’13 and Joey Kizel ’14 together form one of the league’s best backcourt tandems, with Wolfin ranking second in the league in assists (5.2), while Kizel averages 12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Both excelling in last year’s NESCAC championship game against the Jeffs, Wolfin scored 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting, while Kizel poured in 21 on a 7-for-10 showing from the field. Every bit as good during the 2011-12 regular season matchup, netting 18 points, Kizel averaged 19.5 ppg against Amherst over the last two meetings, connecting on 13 of his 21 (61.9 percent) attempts.