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Jeffs Set to Host Plattsburgh in NCAA Second Round
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – After a weekend off thanks to a first-round bye, the NESCAC champion and second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team will return to action on Saturday, hosting SUNY Plattsburgh in the second round of the Division III NCAA Championship. Tip-off from LeFrak Gymnasium is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The winner will advance to face the winner of Randolph-Macon and WPI in the Sweet 16 next Saturday. The 2013 tournament is following a non-traditional schedule, allowing the Division III title game to be played at the Division I Final Four in Atlanta on April 7 in honor of the D-I Tournament’s 75th anniversary. The second round and Sweet 16 are spaced out over the next two Saturdays before the Elite Eight and national semifinal games are played in Salem, Va. March 22-23.
Complete NCAA Tournament Bracket
Matchup: No. 2 Amherst College (25-2) vs. SUNY Plattsburgh (20-8), 4 p.m.
Tickets: $6 for adults, $3 for students (with ID), senior citizens and children
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SCOUTING AMHERST (25-2, 10-0 NESCAC)
The Lord Jeffs enter Saturday’s matchup riding a 19-game win streak that included an undefeated NESCAC season and a thrilling 74-73 win over archrival Williams in the conference finals on Sunday, Feb. 24, the team’s last time on the court.
The Jeffs are making their third consecutive and 15th all-time NCAA tournament appearance with a 28-15 overall record in national championship play. Amherst also earned a first-round bye in last year’s tourney, defeating NYU in second-round play before falling in the sectional semifinals at Franklin & Marshall. NESCAC Coach of the Year David Hixon’s program has reached 13 of the last 14 NCAA Championships, dating back to 2000, reaching the Elite Eight four times in the past seven years with three consecutive trips to the Final Four from 2006-08 and a national title in 2007.
Led by a trio of All-NESCAC performers, this year’s Amherst squad has combined depth and talent to rise to elite status among Division III programs. With four players averaging double-figure scoring, the Jeffs’ fast-paced offense leads the NESCAC at 83.8 points per game. Conference Player of the Year Aaron Toomey ’14 leads the attack, ranking among the NESCAC’s top five in both scoring (17.1 ppg), three-pointers (2.9 per game) and assists (5.1) while boasting the nation’s fifth-best free throw percentage at 90.8.
Meanwhile, Amherst’s three senior captains have elevated their play through the late regular season and conference playoffs. Versatile swingman Willy Workman joined Toomey on the All-NESCAC first team, ranking third in the league in both rebounds (7.7) and blocks (1.6) while also averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per contest.
Meanwhile, center Peter Kaasila has emerged as a consistent post scorer as a senior, ranking second in the conference and sixth nationally with a .641 field goal percentage as he earned second-team All-NESCAC honors. Averaging 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game – including a 16.0 scoring average in conference play – Kaasila joined Workman and Toomey in the program’s 1,000-point club in the Jeffs’ title game win over Williams.
It was Allen Williamson ’13 who stole the show in the NESCAC finals, however, scoring 17 points and delivering the game-saving blocked shot in the final seconds to lift Amherst to its second consecutive conference title. One of Division III’s most athletic guards, Williamson is the fourth Jeff to average double-figure scoring at 11.0 points per game while also boasting an impressive .525 field goal percentage.
Swingman Tom Killian ’14 (7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg) rounds out Hixon’s starting lineup, while David Kalema ’14 has averaged 25.3 minutes per game off the bench, scoring 8.7 points per contest with a .426 percentage from three-point range and ranking third on the squad in both assists (52) and steals (34).
SCOUTING PLATTSBURGH STATE (20-8, 14-4 SUNYAC)
Plattsburgh State enters Saturday’s contest after an 84-63 home win over Husson University (Maine) in first-round play last Saturday. The Cardinals reached the tournament with an at-large bid after falling to No. 23 Cortland State in the SUNYAC Championship Game, 75-61. Plattsburgh suffered an 80-73 loss to Middlebury on Nov. 25 in their only contest against a NESCAC opponent this season.
Plattsburgh’s balanced offense was too much for Husson in last weekend’s first-round matchup as six Cardinals scored in double figures and the hosts shot 9-of-19 (47.4 percent) from long range. Plattsburgh is 5-7 all-time in NCAA tournament play, advancing to the second round in both 2007 and 2008 before a first-round setback in 2010.
This year’s Cardinal squad is in the midst of a remarkable turnaround season after posting just an 8-18 record in 2011-12. Head coach Tom Curle’s lineup is outstanding in its depth, with 10 players averaging at least 12 minutes per game and seven scoring at least five points per contest.
Sophomore Shamoy McIntosh leads Plattsburgh in scoring at 12.1 points per game, but the team’s catalyst on both ends of the floor, has been junior transfer Chris Manning. A second-team all-conference pick, Manning has been a prototypical pass-first point guard, averaging just 6.4 points per game but leading the SUNYAC at 6.0 assists per game while pacing all of Division III at 3.86 steals per contest.
Meanwhile, streaky scorers Jordan Moody ’15 (10.0 ppg), Ezra Hodgson ’15 (8.6) and Kalik Parker ’14 (7.6) can each light up the opposition, with Hodgson netting a game-high 15 points against Husson and leading the squad with a .424 (36-of-85) three-point percentage.