Jeffs to Host Randolph-Macon in Sweet 16
Contact: Matthew Hart
AMHERST, Mass. – In its final home game of the season, the second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team will host Randolph-Macon College (Va.) in the third round of the NCAA Division III Championship on Saturday, March 16 at 3 p.m.
Riding a 20-game win streak, Amherst (26-2) advanced to its third consecutive Sweet 16 with an 89-72 second-round win over SUNY Plattsburgh last Saturday at LeFrak Gym, while Randolph-Macon (21-9) continued its turnaround season with a 79-68 upset of fourth-ranked WPI in Worcester.
With the championship game scheduled for April 7 in Atlanta as part of the 75th anniversary festivities for the D-I Tournament, the Lord Jeffs and Yellow Jackets will square off for a berth in the national quarterfinals to be played on Friday, March 22 at the typical home of the D-III Final Four, Salem, Va. Awaiting will be the winner of Saturday’s third-round matchup between the College of Wooster and Cabrini College.
Photo Gallery: NCAA Second Round vs. Plattsburgh State
Complete NCAA Tournament Bracket
Matchup: Amherst College vs. Randolph-Macon College, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $7 for adults, $4 for students (with ID), senior citizens and children (under 2 free). Doors will open approximately one hour before tipoff.
Live Coverage: Live Stats, Webcast
SCOUTING AMHERST (26-2, 10-0 NESCAC)
The Lord Jeffs enter Saturday’s matchup riding a 20-game win streak that included an undefeated NESCAC season and a second consecutive league title thanks to a thrilling 74-73 win over archrival Williams in the conference finals. After earning one of two first-round byes for the NCAA tournament, Amherst showed little rust after a two-week layoff as the Jeffs roared past Plattsburgh State thanks to 25 points (six three-pointers) from junior point guard Aaron Toomey and a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double from senior co-captain Allen Williamson.
The Jeffs are making their third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and 15th all-time NCAA tournament appearance with a 29-15 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 played in 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 84.0 points per game. The conference’s player of the year and already the 10th-leading scorer in program history, Toomey heads the attack, ranking among the league’s top five in scoring (17.4 ppg), three-pointers (3.0 per game) and assists (5.0) while boasting the nation’s fourth-best free throw percentage at 90.8.
Meanwhile, Amherst’s three senior captains have elevated their play through the late regular season and playoffs. Versatile swingman Willy Workman joined Toomey on the All-NESCAC first team, ranking third in the league in both rebounds (7.9) and blocks (1.6) while also averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals per contest. The 2012 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, Workman turned in another trademark effort against Plattsburgh with 11 points, nine boards, five assists, two blocks and three steals.
Meanwhile, center Peter Kaasila has emerged as a consistent post scorer as a senior, ranking first in the conference and fourth nationally with a .641 field goal percentage as he earned second-team All-NESCAC honors. Averaging 13.4 points and 6.2 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 is Williamson, however, whose stock may be rising faster than any other Jeff’s of late. The senior stole the show in the NESCAC finals, scoring 17 points and delivering the game-saving blocked shot in the final seconds, before notching his first career double-double against Plattsburgh as his dunk and rejection on the game’s first two possessions jumpstarted Amherst’s efforts on both ends of the floor. Emerging as one of D-III’s most athletic guards in his first year as a starter, Williamson is the fourth Jeff to average double-figure scoring at 11.2 points per game while also boasting an impressive .531 field goal percentage.
Swingman Tom Killian ’14 (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) rounds out Hixon’s starting lineup as a valuable all-around contributor, while explosive guard David Kalema ’14 has averaged 25.1 minutes per game off the bench, scoring 9.0 points per contest with a .448 percentage from three-point range and the team’s third-best assist (55) and steal (35) totals. First-years Connor Green (9.1 ppg, 47 three-pointers) and Ben Pollack (3.4 rpg, .560 FG Pct., 23 blocks) have also made significant impacts off the bench for Amherst.
SCOUTING RANDOLPH-MACON (21-9, 11-5 ODAC)
Champions of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), Randolph-Macon’s 2013 season has been a tale of two halves, with the team losing its first three games and falling to 8-8 on the year after a 70-60 setback to 16th-ranked archrival Hampden-Sydney on Jan. 16. The Yellow Jackets have been red hot since, however, winning 13 of 14 with the lone setback another tough loss to H-SC on Feb. 6. R-MC avenged the setback in the semifinals of the tournament, however, beating its nemesis 64-59 before a 75-64 win over 25th-ranked fellow Sweet 16 qualifier Virginia Wesleyan in the conference title game.
The remarkable run has continued into the NCAA Tournament for head coach Nathan Davis’ squad as the Yellow Jackets have become road warriors, traveling north on consecutive weekends for wins in the opening two rounds. Senior forward Lamar Giggetts led the way with 19 points in R-MC’s 69-60 first-round triumph over Stevens before four Yellow Jackets reached double figures as R-MC shot a blistering 59.2 percent from the floor in its 79-68 takedown of WPI.
A 1997 graduate of Randolph-Macon, Davis has continued the program’s long tradition of excellence, winning two ODAC crowns and reaching the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons at the helm. This year’s run marks the school’s 13th trip to the tourney, with a 12-12 all-time record in championship play. R-MC suffered a first-round loss last March and a second-round setback in 2011 after reaching the 2010 Final Four in Davis’ debut campaign where it fell in the national semifinal to eventual champion UW-Stevens Point.
The 2013 Yellow Jackets boast a deep roster, with eight players averaging at least five points per game and 11 seeing over 10 minutes of action per contest. Averaging 69.8 points per contest, R-MC doesn't feature the kind of high-octane attack of Amherst, but Davis' squad has been stingy on the defensive end, holding opponents to conference-leading marks of 60.9 points per game and 37.8 percent shooting.
All-ODAC Second Team forwards Giggetts and Andre Simon ’14 lead the balanced attack at 12.0 and 11.6 points per game, respectively. Shooting 52.4 percent from the floor, Simon also ranks sixth in the conference at 7.2 rebounds per game, while senior center Dylan Cole rounds out the front court, averaging 7.0 points, 5.9 boards and 1.2 blocks per outing.
On the perimeter, shooting guard Connor Sullivan ’15 has been the team’s top long-range weapon, averaging 10.8 points per contest while draining 48-of-125 three-point attempts (.384) on the season. Marcus Badger ’15 has been solid at the point, ranking third in the ODAC at 3.6 assists per game while also averaging 5.9 points and 1.4 steals.
With a team-high 18 points against WPI, sophomore forward Joe Hassell (6.6 ppg, .529 FG) has been a top contributor off of Davis’ deep bench. Akeem Holmes ’15 (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg) has also been reliable in the post while Chris Hamilton ’15 (33-of-87 three-pointers) can light it up from outside and Trent Walker ’15 (2.6 apg) has been a solid backup for Badger.
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