Back to Salem! Jeffs Return to Final Four

team.jpgContact: Ben Badua

AMHERST, Mass. - The seventh-ranked Amherst men’s basketball team returns to the Salem Civic Center on Friday, Mar. 21 for the NCAA Division III championship weekend. Earning a first round bye after winning a third-straight NESCAC title, the Jeffs began their tournament run with a 63-51 victory over York (N.Y.)

Dispatching of SUNY Plattsburgh in the round of 16 (87-63), Amherst punched its ticket to the Final Four with an 84-74 national quarterfinal triumph over Morrisville St. The Jeffs will play in the second of two NCAA semifinal games on Friday, tipping off against archrival Williams College at 8:30 p.m.





Friday, Mar. 21
Wisconsin-Whitewater vs. Illinois Wesleyan, 6 p.m.
Amherst vs. Williams, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Mar. 22
Championship Game, 5:30 p.m.

Tickets will not be available for purchase on campus. Those wishing to attend this weekend’s semifinals and finals should contact the Salem Civic Center box office after 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 20. Ticket pricing as follows:

$15 Single-session adult/$25 All-session adult
$7.50 Single-session student, youth, senior
$12.50 All-session student, youth, senior
$5 Single-session group
Children two years old and younger will be admitted free of charge

MEDIA CREDENTIALS: Media looking to cover this weekend’s semifinals and finals should apply for a credential through the NCAA website.

LIVE COVERAGE: Live stats and a webcast of Friday’s semifinal games will be available on the NCAA website by accessing the interactive bracket. Saturday’s championship game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network. Please contact your local cable provider for channel listings.

FAA VIEWING PARTY: Can't make it to Salem? Join the Friends of Amherst Athletics and members of the campus community in Stirn Auditorium to cheer on the Jeffs at this weekend's championships. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday should Amherst advance.

NCAA TOURNAMENT BLOG: Want an inside look at the men’s basketball team’s journey to the Final Four? Amherst sports information will be blogging live from Salem throughout the week. Be sure to check out our Tumblr feed PURPose for photos, interviews, videos, podcasts and more as the Jeffs continue their quest for a third national championship.

kalema.jpgWELCOME BACK
Keeping its hopes of capturing a second-straight (third overall) NCAA championship alive, Amherst (27-3) punched its ticket to the national semifinal for the sixth time since 2004. Going 5-5 in five previous trips to the Final Four, the Jeffs laid claim to the nation’s biggest prize in 2007 and 2013, while finishing as Division III’s runner-up in 2008.

Amherst is no stranger to its national semifinal opponent, Williams College. Winners of eight-straight against their archrivals, the Jeffs took all three meetings against the Ephs this season. Notching an 84-73 victory in LeFrak Gymnasium on Jan. 11, Amherst downed Williams in Williamstown on Jan. 22, 82-70. Drawing the Ephs in the NESCAC title game, the Jeffs recorded a 93-82 triumph, becoming the first team in conference history to win three-consecutive conference crowns (seven overall).

Suffering its first league loss in three years at Colby on Jan. 31 (80-75), Amherst has regained its form, carrying an 11-game win streak into the Final Four. During the streak, the Jeffs have shot 46.3 percent (297-of-642) from the floor and 38.3 percent (115-of-300) from three, while holding opponents to 41.1 percent (273-of-664) shooting and a 31.9 clip (59-of-185) from long distance. Limiting the opposition to just 66.6 points per game Amherst has enjoyed a 15-point scoring margin over its last 11. On the season, the Purple & White lead the NESCAC in scoring (84.5 ppg), while ranking second in field goal percentage (47.4), free throw percentage (75.4) and three-pointers made (288).

In the midst of a stellar senior campaign, Aaron Toomey ’14 was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference’s (NESCAC) Player of the Year for the second-consecutive season. Ranked second in the league in scoring (20.5 ppg), the tri-captain leads the NESCAC in assists (6.4 apg) and three-pointers made per game (3.1), while sitting second in steals (2.0). Earning a place on the all-conference first team for the third-straight year, Toomey joined former Jeff Andrew Olson ’08 as the only players in league history to garner consecutive Player of the Year awards.

Helping to guide Amherst to an unprecedented third-straight league title, David Hixon ’75 earned his second-consecutive (fourth overall) NESCAC Coach of the Year honor. Also earning distinction in 2001, 2005 and 2013, Hixon has helped lead his alma mater to a 720-255 overall record in his 37 years at the helm, picking up his milestone 700th victory earlier this season against Babson on Dec. 12. His 720 wins rank fourth on the list of active Division III coaches and are the fourth most all-time.

One of the most decorated players in program history, Aaron Toomey ’14 has spent the season re-writing the program’s record books. Becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer on Jan. 17 at Tufts, he has shattered the previous mark held by Steve Zieja ’03 (1,708). The only player in Jeff history to surpass the 2,000-point plateau, he netted 31 against Morrisville St. in the national quarterfinals to up his career total to 2,030. Toomey also holds Amherst’s career benchmarks for free throws (606) and three-pointers made (290), while breaking his own single-season record with 187 free throws this season. Shooting .912 (187-of-205) from the charity stripe, he is currently on pace to also surpass his own single-season record for free throw percentage set in 2011-12 (.910) and is just three triples away from tying the single-season three-point field goal record held by Jamal Wilson ’97 (96).

Bursting onto the scene as a first-year, David George ’17 has recorded a program-record 82 blocks this season, surpassing the old mark of 76 set in 2001-02 and 2002-03 by Pat Fitzsimons ’03. Swatting five shots in his debut against Brooklyn College on Nov. 16, he had seven blocks against Babson on Dec. 12 and Trinity in the NESCAC tournament semifinals on Mar. 1. Narrowly missing out on a triple double in the NCAA sectional semifinal against Plattsburgh St. he had a season-high nine blocks to go along with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He currently ranks second in the conference in blocks per game (2.6).

Quietly enjoying a breakout season, Tom Killian ’14 has posted career-high averages in points (15.0) and rebounds (6.3) per game, while shooting 51.9 percent (150-of-308) from the floor, 38.8 percent (54-of-139) from three and 80.0 percent (60-of-75) from the free throw line. Nabbing a spot on the All-NESCAC second team, he picked up the only conference Player of the Week honor of his career on Mar. 3 after scoring a personal-best 31 points (including 17 of the team’s first 19) against Williams in the NESCAC championship game. In the league tournament’s final weekend, he averaged 21.5 points and 4.0 rebounds, while shooting 63.6 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from behind the arc.

Important reserves during Amherst’s NCAA title run last season, David Kalema ’14 and Connor Green ’16 have grown into starting roles in 2013-14. Averaging 12.7 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, Kalema is shooting 43.4 percent (125-of-288) from the floor and 35.4 percent (87-of-113) from three. Against Morrisville St. in the national quarterfinal, Kalema was at his best, hitting 8-of-14 shots en route to 20 points. Showing the ability to score in bunches Green currently ranks fifth in the NESCAC in points per game (17.6). Pouring in a career-high 42 points against Division II Nova Southeastern on Jan. 1, the sophomore standout has scored in double figures in all but four of his 27 appearances, tallying at least 20 points on 12 occasions.


First Round:
Williams def. Mitchell, 81-66 (Recap)
Second Round:
Williams def. Gordon, 81-63 (Recap)
Third Round:
Williams def. Albertus Magnus, 110-92 (Recap)
Williams def. Mary Washington, 79-46 (Recap)

Advancing to the Final Four for the third time in five years, No. 9 Williams enters this weekend’s action with a 27-4 overall mark. Posting a 41-12 record in 14 NCAA appearances, the Ephs won their only national championship in 2003, while finishing as the DIII runner-up in 2004 and 2010.

Michael Mayer ’14 led Williams in last weekend’s Sweet 16 game against Albertus Magnus, posting a double-double with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Hitting 9-of-14 shots, Duncan Robinson ’17 scored 24 points, while Hayden Rooke-Ley ’15 netted 18 thanks to a 13-of-16 showing from the charity stripe. Daniel Wohl ’15 and Taylor Epley ’14 chipped in with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Suffocating the Mary Washington offense in the Elite 8, the Ephs limited the Eagles to just 23.1 percent shooting, including a 15.6 clip (7-of-45) from long distance. Epley paced the Williams attack with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Robinson recorded a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Mayer added 14 points and 12 boards, while Mike Greenman ’17 scored 13.

The NESCAC’s second-highest scoring offense (84.3 ppg), the Ephs lead the conference pack in field goal (50.5), three-point (39.3) and free throw percentage (76.3). A first-team all-league pick, Mayer sits fourth in the NESCAC in points (18.2) and rebounds (8.9) per game. The conference’s Rookie of the Year, Robinson is fourth in the league in three-point percentage (44.6) and second on the squad in scoring (16.7 ppg). Connecting on 55.0 percent of his shots and 88.4 percent of his free throws, the first-year also pulls down 6.7 rebounds per game.

In the midst of a solid senior season, Epley averages 13.6 points, while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor and 40.8 percent from three. Wohl and Rooke-Ley give the Ephs some added punch, averaging 13.0 and 11.1 points per outing, respectively, while combining for eight rebounds.

whitewater.jpgSCOUTING WHITEWATER (27-4)

First Round:
UWW def. Northwestern, 79-55 (Recap)
Second Round:
UWW def. Augustana, 87-68 (Recap)
Third Round:
UWW def. UT-Dallas, 81-63 (Recap)
UWW def. Emory, 74-51 (Recap)

Winners of 13 of its last 14, three-time champion Wisconsin-Whitewater (2012, 1989, 1984) will make its fifth NCAA Final Four appearance. Falling to Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the WIAC championship game (74-57), the third-ranked Warhawks earned an at-large berth into the tournament’s 62-team field and began their run with opening round victories over Northwestern (79-55) and Augustana (87-68). Defeating UT-Dallas in the sectional semifinals (81-63), UWW upended Emory (74-51) to improve to 35-16 all-time in 19 NCAA appearances.

Against UT-Dallas, KJ Evans ’15 netted a team-high 22 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Reggie Hearn ’14 had 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Cody Odegaard ’15 hit 5-of-7 triples to finish with 18 points. Alex Merg ’14 chipped in with 10 points as the Warhawks shot a combined 58.8 percent from the field. Shooting just 38.5 percent and down 26-25 in the first half against Emory, Wisconsin-Whitewater connected on 72.0 percent of its shots over the final 20 minutes en route to a 74-51 victory. Evans had 27 points and 11 rebounds, while Quardell Young ’15 chipped in with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

The WIAC’s highest-scoring team at 78.8 points per game, UWW ranks second in the conference in field goal percentage (49.9). Also second in the league in points allowed (60.8) and opponent three-point percentage (31.5), the Warhawks led the WIAC with a +18.0 scoring margin.

Fourth in the conference in scoring (16.8) and first in rebounding (8.3), Evans was one of three Wisconsin-Whitewater players to nab a spot on the All-WIAC first-team. Joining the junior on the league’s top squad were Young and Eric Bryson ’14. Leading the conference in steals (2.0), Young sits third on the WIAC charts in assists (3.9) and fourth in field goal percentage (55.0), while averaging 10.8 points per game. Shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, Bryson averages 11.9 points per outing, while Hearn picked up all-league honorable mention honors after averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest.


First Round:
Illinois Wesleyan def. Webster, 71-70 (Recap)
Second Round:
Illinois Wesleyan def. St. Norbert, 84-68 (Recap)
Third Round:
Illinois Wesleyan def. Calvin, 78-64 (Recap)
Illinois Wesleyan def. Dickinson, 79-66 (Recap)

Making its sixth NCAA Final Four appearance, No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan has posted a 53-22 all-time mark in 23 trips to the national tournament. Falling to Wheaton in the CCIW championship (87-66), the Titans received at-large berth into this year’s field, defeating Webster (71-70) and St. Norbert (84-68) in the opening rounds before ousting Calvin (78-64) and Dickinson (79-66) in last weekend’s sectionals.

Knocking down 6-of-11 field goals, Jordan Nelson ’15 scored 22 points against Calvin, while Victor Davis ’14 finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Scoring 18 points, Andrew Ziemnik ’14 led Illinois Wesleyan against Dickinson, while Davis tallied 15 points and eight boards. Nelson chipped in with 12 points.

Scoring a league-high 82.7 points per game, the Titans led the conference in field goal (49.8) and three-point (41.5) percentage, while also topping the CCIW in opponent field goal (41.3) and three-point (31.4) shooting. A first-team all-conference selection, Ziemnik leads the team in scoring (12.5 ppg), shooting 49.1 percent from the field, while grabbing 5.8 rebounds per contest.

Also a first-team honoree, Davis is among the CCIW’s leaders in field goal percentage (50.8), while ranking second on the squad in points (11.8) and first in rebounds (6.5). Knocking down a conference-best 2.4 three-pointers per game, Nelson averages 11.7 points on 45.1 percent shooting and a 40.4 clip from long distance.

A second-team All-CCIW pick, Dylan Overstreet ’15 tops the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.79), while averaging a team-high 4.2 assists per game. Helping to spread the floor, Pat Sodemann ’15 is currently second in the conference in three-point percentage (50.0).