Jeffs Selected to Host NCAA Tournament Opening Rounds
AMHERST, MA – Fresh off a second consecutive NESCAC title, the Amherst College women's basketball team will kick off its NCAA Tournament run by hosting Husson University on Friday, Mar. 4 in LeFrak Gymnasium.
Game Schedule: Friday's first matchup will feature Baruch College taking on Eastern Connecticut State University at 5 p.m., followed by Amherst hosting Husson at 7 p.m. Friday’s winners will square off Saturday at 6 p.m. with a trip to the sectional rounds on the line.
Ticket Information: Tickets for each day will be $6 for adults and $3 for senior citizens, children and students with a valid ID. Children under the age of two will be admitted free of charge. Doors to LeFrak Gymnasium will open at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The first 100 Amherst students with a valid ID to arrive on Friday and Saturday will receive a free ticket.
Live Coverage: Each of this weekend’s games will feature a live webcast and live statistics. An audio-only broadcast will also be provided by D3hoops.com.
Weekend Preview: Amherst (26-1) had never qualified for the NCAA Tournament prior to the 2007-08 season, but head coach GP Gromacki and his Lord Jeffs have made four consecutive appearances to become one of the most exceptional programs in Division III. Amherst is 11-4 in tournament history, advancing to the national semifinals in each of the past two years and finishing in third place with a 32-1 record in 2010.
Winners of 13 straight games, the Lord Jeffs will be putting their 45-game home winning streak on the line this weekend. Amherst has been virtually untouchable in LeFrak Gymnasium these past four years, as Gromacki’s teams are a combined 70-1 on their home floor. Even some of the best teams in Division III have been shut down in LeFrak, with Amherst winning its eight NCAA Tournament home games by an average of 20.9 points in the past two years. The Jeffs are coming off arguably their best performance of the season, a 72-37 win over an exceptional Bowdoin team in the NESCAC Championship finals.
Shannon Finucane ’12 and Lem Atanga McCormick ’12 have been particularly successful in NCAA Tournament games played in LeFrak. In her first two seasons Finucane averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 assists in those eight playoff games, while Atanga McCormick chipped in with 12.4 points and 1.4 blocks in addition to shooting 53 percent from behind the arc. Jaci Daigneault ’11 will be in the mix this time around after missing much of last year’s tournament due to injury, as she and fellow co-captain Sarah Leyman ’11 have helped to carry the load these past four years.
Friday will mark the first-ever meeting between Amherst and Husson (16-11). This is the third NCAA Tournament appearance for the Eagles, who recently claimed their second consecutive North Atlantic Conference title and are now in search of their first win on the national stage. Husson has won four straight games and 10 of its past 11 after getting off to a 6-10 start, but the Eagles are just 4-9 outside of conference play. They were 0-3 against the NESCAC during the regular season, suffering losses to Bates (84-79), Bowdoin (89-55) and Colby (76-56).
NAC Player of the Year and All-Tournament Team selection Bethany Sevey ’11 led the Eagles with 20 points in the conference finals, as she leads her team with 16.6 points per game. Tournament MVP Amanda Gifford ’12 averages 10.6 points per contest and Noelle Lincoln ’11 is close behind at an even 10.0, with each player earning an All-Conference Second Team selection this year. No player on the roster stands taller than 5’10 for the Eagles, who will have their work cut out for them while trying to slow down Amherst’s Daigneault, Leyman and Atanga McCormick in the paint.
Serving as the home team in Friday's second game will be Baruch (23-5), which is 2-4 in four NCAA Tournament appearances. The Bearcats won their three CUNYAC Tournament games by an average of 31.0 points, making them 11-1 in their past 12 games. Three of Baruch’s losses came against teams that have qualified for the national tournament, including close results against Illinois Wesleyan (75-71) and Richard Stockton (81-80). In their only meeting with the NESCAC, the Bearcats suffered an 87-79 loss at the hands of Trinity on Feb. 15.
Two-time CUNYAC Player of the Year Monique Salmon ’11 is averaging 11.0 points and 7.5 assists per game this season, but First Team All-Star Megan Bouwens ’11 stole the show with 24 points and 23 rebounds in the conference title game. A 6’0 center, Bouwens averages 14.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, with Second Team All-Star Folashade Akinde ’12 (12.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg) also averaging a double-double. The Bearcats average 78.1 points per contest and allow only 60.8, notably holding City Tech to 19 points on Jan. 19.
Baruch will take on the Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State (20-8). With a 16-14 record in 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, the Warriors have made three trips to the national semifinals. Eastern Connecticut is 8-2 in its past 10 games, with both of those losses coming to Western Connecticut State, including a 74-58 result in the Little East Conference finals. The Warriors won their first seven games of the season but hit a road block in Amherst, as the Lord Jeffs led by only three with 4:00 to play in the first half but pulled away for a 79-55 win. Eastern also suffered a 64-54 loss to Williams but managed a convincing 57-43 win over Tufts back on Nov. 21.
Four players average at least 10 points and six rebounds for the Warriors, who are scoring 66.9 points per game. Piper Chapman ’12, who had 25 points in the LEC semifinals, shoots 50 percent from the floor and 81 percent at the line as the team’s leader in scoring (11.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Jessica Moriarty ’11 chips in with 10.5 points, 6.4 boards and 4.0 assists per game, while Tanisha Carter ’13 poured in 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds in the conference finals.
Joining Amherst in the NCAA Tournament are Williams, Colby and Bowdoin. Fans could be in store for some NESCAC rematches, as the Lord Jeffs could potentially see the Ephs in the sectional semifinals, the Polar Bears in the sectional finals and the Mules in the national semifinals. Amherst is 9-1 against the tournament field this year, with that lone loss coming at Kean University on Jan. 11. A potential rematch between the Jeffs and Cougars would not take place until the national semifinal round.
(First and Second Rounds – Played at Amherst)
Friday, Mar. 4
Amherst College (26-1) vs. Husson University (16-11) – 5 p.m.
Baruch (23-5) vs. Eastern Connecticut State (20-8) – 7 p.m.
Saturday, Mar. 5
Friday’s Winners – 6 p.m.
Tournament Bracket (Interactive) * Tournament Bracket (Printable PDF)