Amherst Takes Down Keene State, 72-47

Lem Atanga McCormick '12 matched her career high with 22 points against Keene State.

AMHERST, MA – The 2nd-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team was unable to climb up to the top spot in today’s Top-25 poll, but made a statement to everyone in Division III this evening with a 72-47 win over a previously undefeated Keene State College squad. With the win, Amherst improves to 4-0 on the year, while Keene State, ranked 22nd in the ESPN Coaches Poll, drops to 4-1.

With 17:28 to play in the first half, Amherst sophomore guard Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) nailed a three on a kick-out by Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) to put the Lord Jeffs up 7-3. After the Owls took an 8-7 lead on a triple by Kristin Degou, Amherst sophomore Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) made a tough layup on a drive to the right to answer.

The two teams traded buckets over the next ten minutes, and after a pair of missed free throws by Amherst junior co-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati,OH) failed to tie the game, sophomore Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) took a steal the distance for a layup to put the Jeffs in front 17-16. On the next Amherst possession, Finucane hit Renner on a backdoor cut for a score to force a Keene State timeout with 7:23 to play.

With just over five minutes to play in the first half, Amherst junior Kristen Dunleavy (E. Setauket, NY) capped a 9-0 run with a three from the right wing to open up a 26-16 lead. After another Keene timeout, Renner hit a three from the top of the key to stretch Amherst’s lead to 29-16. Each team scored a bucket before Amherst forced a shot-clock violation from the Owls with 2:37 to play.

Amherst’s lead grew to 19 points at 39-20, before the Owls scored the final four points of the half to head to the locker room trailing 39-24. At the break Renner and Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) led Amherst with nine points apiece, while Dunleavy had eight points. Degou paced the Owls with nine points in the half.

Keene started the second half in an up-tempo two-three zone, which caused the Lord Jeffs some initial problems.  Amherst caught a break when Degou picked up her third and fourth fouls in the first few minutes of the frame, sending her to the bench with 12 points.  

With 13:00 to play in the second half, Amherst’s lead was down to 41-32 and the Lord Jeffs were still unable to solve the Keene defense. With 12:13 to go, Dunleavy made a deep two-pointer to end Amherst’s 7:04 scoreless draught, and jump-start the offense.

Just after the midpoint of the second half, Atanga McCormick scored seven straight points for Amherst, helping the Lord Jeffs open back up a 54-38 lead. With 6:28 to play, Amherst’s lead remained at 16 points at 56-40, with Finucane pulling off a smart play to call for a timeout as she was falling out of bounds.

Amherst’s lead hit 21 points at 61-40 with 5:25 to play as Finucane finished off a three-point play the old fashioned way. With three and a half minutes to play, Courtney Cirillo made a beautiful save on a missed free throw to throw the ball over her head and hit Amber Alberto in the lane for a layup. With the score, the Owls closed the gap to 65-47.

Amherst responded with the final seven points of the game, cruising to a comfortable 72-47 win over a very impressive Keene State team. At the end of the night, Atanga McCormick finished 9-of-10 from the field for 22 points to tie a career-high, while adding four rebounds and three blocks. Finucane chipped in with a dozen points, including a 7-for-7 performance at the charity stripe. Degou finished the night with 12 points to lead the Owls, while Alberto added 10 points in the loss.

The Jeffs will return to LeFrak this weekend to host the 2009 Amherst Classic, opening up with RPI on Friday night at 6 p.m., before taking on Baruch College on Saturday at 2 p.m.