Amherst's Conference Win Streak Snapped in 80-75 Loss to Colby
Contact: Ben Badua
WATERVILLE, Maine - Held without a field goal for a stretch of 10:11 in the second half, the third-ranked Amherst men’s basketball team saw its 25-game regular season conference win streak come to an end with an 80-75 loss to NESCAC rival Colby College.
Suffering its first loss in nine games and first league defeat since Feb. 12, 2011 at Williams (74-70), Amherst falls to 16-3 (5-1 NESCAC) on the season, while Colby improved to 10-8 (2-4 NESCAC) on the year. Including the conference championships, the two-time defending NESCAC champion Jeffs had won 31-straight games against league opponents entering tonight’s contest.
With Aaron Toomey ’14 giving Amherst a 58-56 lead with 11:01 to play, the Mules held the visitors without a field goal until Toomey hit a three with 50 seconds left in regulation, outscoring the Jeffs 17-8 during that span. The senior tri-captain led all scorers with 26 points on 8-of-17 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists. David Kalema ’14 chipped in with 14 points, while Ben Pollack ’16 had 13 points and a career-high 12 boards.
Tied at 26-26 with less than six minutes to go in the first, the Jeffs ripped off an 11-1 run. Pollack got things started with a turnaround jumper from the left elbow before Toomey drove the lane and banked one in off the glass. A Kalema putback of a Connor Green ’16 misfire extended the lead to six before a Ryan Jann ’16 free throw snapped Colby’s scoreless streak of 2:18. Knocking down a contested triple from the left wing, Toomey padded the visitors’ cushion, before Pollack found Tom Killian ’14 on a back cut to cap off the spurt.
Ducking inside, Luke Westman ’16 ended a four-plus minute Mule field goal drought before Chris Hudnut ’16 buried a straight-away three to pare the deficit to 37-32. Coming right back, Green spun off a defender and knocked down a runner before later driving the baseline for two more to push the Purple & White lead back up to nine.
Trailing by seven at the intermission, Stewart buried a trey on Colby’s opening possession before Hudnut hit a jumper from the corner that suddenly made it 41-39. After exchanging layups, Toomey kicked it out to Killian for an open three before Pollack converted a bucket down low to up the Jeff margin to 48-41.
Down 56-47 after a Pollack layup at 13:56, Colby rattled off a 9-0 run. Connor O’Neil ’15 sparked the rally with a jumper before a Sam Willson ’16 basket trimmed the deficit to five. Willson then knifed into the paint for a layup before a Stewart trey pulled the home team even. Toomey momentarily stemmed the tide with a floater, but Stewart came right back with another three-pointer to give the Mules their first lead since the 6:51 mark of the first half.
Still down one with 5:30 remaining in regulation, Toomey drew a foul before converting a pair from the charity stripe. Scoring on its next possession, Colby looked to Hudnut, who made a nice move on the left block to put the home team back on top. Ahead by three after a couple Willson free throws, Hudnut once again connected down low, hitting a turnaround jumper to make it 68-63.
With three minutes to go, Hudnut found Willson on a back door cut for a baseline dunk before Stewart hit 1-of-2 from the line to stretch the lead to eight. Trailing by 10 after a Westman layup, Toomey knocked down a three with 50 seconds left on the clock to snap Amherst’s 10:11 field goal drought. It was too little, too late however, with the Mules going 7-of-10 from the charity stripe down the stretch to ice the game.
Shooting 66.7 percent (16-of-24) in the second half, Colby held Amherst to just 28.9 shooting (11-of-38) in the final 20 minutes, after giving up a 50.0 percent (17-of-34) clip in the first period. Scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half, Willson helped spark the Mule charge, while Stewart finished with a team-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting and a 5-of-10 showing from beyond the arc. Hudnut and Jann added 13 and 10 points, respectively, while combining for 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Jeffs will look to break back into the win column tomorrow afternoon against No. 19 Bowdoin.