NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship Preview

Contact: Ben Badua

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AMHERST, Mass. - The Amherst College men’s basketball team resumes its quest for a second-consecutive NESCAC title (sixth overall) this Saturday with a semifinal showdown against Tufts University. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. in LeFrak Gymnasium, with the league’s other semifinal featuring second-seeded Williams and third-seeded Middlebury scheduled for 3 p.m.

2013 NESCAC Men’s Basketball Championship

Quarterfinals – Saturday, Feb. 16
No. 1 Amherst 83, No. 8 Colby 52
No. 2 Williams 88, No. 7 Bates 79
No. 3 Middlebury 61, No. 6 Wesleyan 49
No. 4 Tufts 82, No. 5 Bowdoin 71
 
Semifinals – Saturday, Feb. 23
No. 1 Amherst vs. No. 4 Tufts - 1 p.m.
No. 2 Williams vs. No. 3 Middlebury - 3 p.m.
 
Championship – Sunday, Feb. 24
Semifinal Winners - 12 p.m.

LIVE COVERAGE: Live stats and a webcast will be available for both semifinal games on Saturday and Sunday’s championship game slated for 12 p.m.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets will be $5 for adults and $2 for students and children. Amherst students with a valid ID will be admitted free of charge.

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No. 1 Amherst (23-2, 10-0 NESCAC)
Piecing together a second-straight 10-0 NESCAC season, Amherst earned its third-consecutive conference semifinal berth with a decisive 83-52 victory over Colby College. Aaron Toomey ’14 led the Jeffs with a game-high 28 points, hitting a career-high eight three-pointers, while pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out six assists.

Scoring 16 points, including the game winning trey in a 104-101 triple overtime thriller against Middlebury, Toomey averaged 22 points, seven assists and 5.5 rebounds the last two times out en route to a third NESCAC Player of the Week honor. In four games against this weekend’s field, the point guard has averaged 19.3 points, 6.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals.

Shooting 65.0 percent from the floor and 56.3 percent from three-point range in four games against the conference’s final four, Willy Workman ’13 has averaged 20 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game. The swingman was especially effective in the Jeffs’ triple overtime game with the Panthers, pouring in a career-high 30 points, while tying a personal best with 13 boards.

Enjoying a banner season, Peter Kaasila ’13 has developed into a strong presence on the low block, ranking second in the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (63.1). Averaging 16.5 points and 7.0 rebounds against the semifinal field, Kaasila hit 11-of-13 shots against Tufts, finishing with 26 points. The center also put forth a solid effort against Middlebury with 29 points and 11 rebounds.

Starters Tom Killian ’14 and Allen Williamson ’13 have combined to average 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game against Tufts, Middlebury and Williams this season, while Connor Green ’16 and David Kalema ’14 give the conference’s highest scoring team (84.4 ppg) a boost off the bench with the duo each shooting over 40 percent from three-point range.

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No. 2 Williams (22-3, 9-1 NESCAC)
Winners of six of their last seven, Williams is one of the conference’s best shooting teams, hitting on over 50 percent of its shot attempts. The Ephs lone loss down the stretch came against the Jeffs on Feb. 10, with Williams only managing a season-low 48 points on 30 percent shooting and a 13.3 percent clip from long distance.

Righting the ship, the Ephs advanced to the semifinals with an 88-79 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Bates, setting up a showdown with third-seeded Middlebury. The Ephs took a closely contested regular season matchup with the Panthers, 64-63, led by junior Michael Mayer’s 24 points and seven rebounds. Nate Robertson ’13 scored 11 points against Middlebury before later pouring in 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting against the Bobcats in the NESCAC quarters. Mayer turned in a double-double against the Bobcats with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while James Klemm ’13 and Taylor Epley ’14 scored 20 and 17 points, respectively.

On the season, Epley ranks second in the conference in points per game (18.1), hitting on 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc. One of the league’s premier big men, Mayer ranks among the league leaders in rebounds (8.6 -1st), field-goal percentage (57.0 - 3rd) and points (17.2 - 5th), while Robertson sits fourth in assists per game (4.5). Klemm is the only other Eph averaging double figures with just over 10 points per outing.

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No. 3 Middlebury (22-2, 8-2 NESCAC)
Shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point range, Middlebury carries one of the league’s most efficient offenses into Semifinal Saturday. Having won six of their last seven outings, one of the Panthers’ two losses came during the final night of the regular season, a 104-101 triple overtime affair with the top-seeded Jeffs.

Just 1-2 against the tournament’s remaining teams, the Panthers also fell to Williams in late January. Peter Lynch ’13 hit 7-of-9 shots for 16 points in the setback to the Ephs, while Joey Kizel ’14 finished with 15 points. Kizel was instrumental in Middlebury’s quarterfinal win over Wesleyan (61-49), pouring in 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Lynch, Nolan Thompson ’13 and Jake Wolfin ’13 chipped in with 12 a piece.

Leading the NESCAC in field-goal percentage (64.7), Lynch tops the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game. Thompson and Hunter Merryman ’15 help spread the floor as two of the conference’s best three-point shooters, with the duo each hitting on over 45 percent of their attempts from distance. One of the catalysts to the Panthers’ attack, Wolfin ranks among the league’s assist leaders (4.9), while Kizel averages 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 helpers per outing.

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No. 4 Tufts (17-8, 7-3 NESCAC)
Winning 11 of its last 12 games, Tufts has posted its best record since the 2005-06 season. Leading the conference in three-point field-goal percentage (46.8), Stephen Haladyna ’16 averages 10.5 points per game, while fellow first-year Tom Palleschi ’16 scores a shade over nine per contest.

Leading scorer Ben Ferris ’15 (13.1 ppg) poured in a career-high 24 points in the Jumbos’ 82-71 quarterfinal win over Bowdoin, while Scott Anderson ’13 tallied 20 points with nine rebounds. On the season, Anderson averages 13.0 ppg, while putting up 15.6 points per outing against league opponents. Erupting in a 100-89 regular season loss to Amherst, the senior drained 12-of-17 field-goals for a game-high 35 points. Ferris failed to get going against the Jeffs in the previous matchup, finishing with just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting.

Palleschi, who scored 15 against the Jeffs in early February, had 12 points and six rebounds against the Polar Bears, while Haladyna netted 17 in the setback to Amherst. Kwame Firempong ’14, who averaged 6.6 ppg and nearly three assists in 25 appearances, scored 13 points against the Jeffs before posting 11 points and four rebounds in the win over Bowdoin.