Amherst Rolls RPI 74-36 in Classic Opener

Jackie Renner led Amherst with 13 points in the win.

AMHERST, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team opened up play at the 2009 Amherst Classic this evening against the Engineers of RPI.  The Lord Jeffs improved to 5-0 on the year with a 74-36 win, while RPI fell to 1-3 on the season.

After RPI’s Allison Connor scored the game’s first points on a three pointer, Amherst sophomore guard Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) responded with a three of her own. Classmate Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) found junior co-captain Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) for a layup, before Amherst forced turnovers on four straight Engineer possessions. Despite the great defense, which included a pair of shot clock violations, Amherst was unable to expand on its 5-3 lead.

The two teams combined for 10 turnovers in the first 7:03 of the game, but Amherst was able to open up a 9-3 lead on a short jumper by sophomore Jackie Renner (Newton, MA) and a layup by junior co-captain Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT). With 11:30 to play Stedman hit a three from the left wing on a kick by Renner to put Amherst up 12-3.

Amherst’s lead grew to 20-4 on threes by sophomore Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) and junior Kristyn Dunleavy (E. Setauket, NY) before RPI’s second field goal of the half came on a Whitney Coleman jumper with 8:42 to play. The Lord Jeffs held the Engineers 10:22 without a made field goal. Connor helped RPI close the gap to 23-11 on a three with just under four minutes remaining in the first half.

At the halftime break, Amherst held a 32-17 lead with Stedman leading ten scorers with seven points and three assists. Connor led all players with 10 points for RPI, including a trio of three pointers in the first half.

In less than seven minutes of second-half play, Amherst built its lead up to 23 points as Leyman poked the ball away from an RPI player near midcourt and scooped it up to streak in for a layup. As the clock crept towards the midpoint of the season half, the Lord Jeffs broke the RPI full-court press with ease to set up Atanga McCormick for another score.

With 6:44 to play, Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) found first-year Bridget Crowley (Hampden, MA) for a score to put Amherst up 60-25. At the 4:46 mark, Amherst fan favorite Livia Rizzo (Dover, MA) capped off a nice fast break to extend the lead to 65-29.

In the final minutes of the game, Amherst made a handful of free throws to close out a 74-36 win. Coleman led all players with 14 points for RPI on 5-for-21 shooting, while Connor added 12 points and six rebounds. Amherst’s scoring was spread very evenly, with Renner's 13 points leading a group of eight players who scored at least six points.

Amherst will face Baruch College Saturday at 2 p.m. before RPI faces Trinity College at 4 p.m. In Friday's second game, Baruch handed Trinity a 74-61 loss to improve to 4-0.