Jeffs Make Case for No. 1 with 71-24 Win at Mt. Holyoke

Atanga McCormick
Sophomore Lem Atanga McCormick and Amherst made a strong case for the nation's top spot.

SOUTH HADLEY, MA – In the absence of a Top 25 poll this week, the Amherst College women’s basketball team will have to wait another week to see if it will be the top-ranked team in the nation. The 2nd-ranked Lord Jeffs improved to 3-0 on the year this evening with a 71-24 win over Mount Holyoke College, and with top-ranked Wash.-U losing over the weekend Amherst could be No. 1 for the first time ever.

The Lyons opened the game playing a two-three zone, giving the Lord Jeff shooters free range to let the three balls fly. Sophomore Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) knocked down a pair of triples on Amherst’s first two possessions, and by the 15:51 mark the Lord Jeffs held a 12-0 lead.

Just after the midpoint of the first half, Amherst stretched its lead to 26-5 on a layup by junior Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT). With two minutes to play in the frame, Fiorentino found classmate Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, NY) with a nice feed in the paint for a score that put the Jeffs up 38-8. In the final seconds of the first half, junior Kristyn Dunleavy (East Setauket, NY) hit a three from the top of the key to send Amherst into the half leading 44-8.

Mt. Holyoke hung with Amherst during the first seven minutes of the second half, with the Jeffs outscoring the Lyons just 9-6 during the span. With a three pointer by Mt. Holyoke’s Angelica Pascual at the 10:30 mark of the second half, the Amherst’s second half advantage was just 11-9.

The last ten minutes of the second half saw Amherst return to form and run away for a 71-24 win. The 24 points is the lowest point total in the history of Mt. Holyoke’s program.  Daigneault and Atanga McComick led Amherst in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively, while Dunleavy chipped in with 10 points in only 16 minutes.

Should Amherst rise to the top spot in next Tuesday’s poll it will be just the latest record for the women’s hoops program during the three years that head coach G.P. Gromacki has been on board. During his first season in 2007-08, Amherst won a then-record 17 consecutive games to start the season, and finished 27-3, which also set a program record for wins. That year Amherst won its first NESCAC Championship, and after reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time won a pair of games to reach the Sectional semifinals.

Last year, Amherst shattered nearly every record once again after starting the year with 18 straight wins, and finishing with a 29-4 overall record. During Gromacki’s second season Amherst won four NCAA Tournament games, making a historic run all the way to the Final Four before falling in the National Semifinals.

While Gromacki has stated that the goal this season is to win a National Championship, after the game he said “it’s great to see how far we have come in just three short seasons, and if you watch us play we look like a No. 1 team.”

Next Tuesday look for the rankings on, and watch as Amherst returns to the court at home against Keene State at 7 p.m.