The men’s basketball team, riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA Tournament after winning the NESCAC Championship, continued to dominate LeFrak Gymnasium this weekend in their first national tournament game. With men’s ice hockey beating Williams before the basketball game, the atmosphere was electric in the Amherst student section, which competed against a full contingent from visiting New York Univ. The Violets brought fans and cheerleaders to LeFrak, hoping to catch some energy and pull off an upset of the heavily favored Jeffs.
While NYU had to reach their second round spot with a first-round win over Misericordia Univ., however, the Jeffs had the luxury of waiting and practicing before the second round after earning a bye with their impressive accomplishments to date. The extra time paid off, as Amherst took the floor with the urgency and execution necessary in an elimination game. The Violets refused to lie down against the home squad, and the first few minutes of the game saw intense back-and-forth action. In fact, after almost 10 minutes of play, NYU managed to take a one-point lead at 15-14 before a Taylor Barrise ’12 three-pointer sparked a 7-0 Amherst run. Despite watching their slim lead evaporate, the Violets battled back to within a basket until the Jeffs ran off 12 of the first half’s final 14 points to go into the locker room with a 40-28 lead.
The strong run at the end of the first half proved a huge turning point in the game, as Amherst never looked back and dominated the second half. While NYU scored five points at the outset, the Jeffs responded with an 18-4 run that turned the matchup into a blowout. During this eight-minute period, Barrise and David Waller ’12 both showcased their shooting prowess, but more notably, so did center Pete Kaasila ’13. Kaasila, usually confined to the post, drifted outside the arc and knocked down only the third three-ball of his Amherst career and his first of the season.
After the Kaasila triple, the Jeffs took the life out of the Violets and won comfortably by an 80-56 margin. While most of the team came out and gave solid efforts, Aaron Toomey ’14 once again stole the show, netting a career-high 34 points on 9-of-14. Toomey was also automatic at the free throw line, as usual, nailing 14 of his 15 attempts. Willy Workman ’13 supplemented Toomey’s scoring prowess by doing the tough work for the Jeffs, as he compiled eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
With their 30th straight victory in LeFrak, the Jeffs are also on a general 14-game winning streak that seems to have them in prime position to make a deep run in the tournament. Amherst puts its 26-2 record up against Franklin & Marshall College on Friday in the Round of 16.
The Jeffs are making their 10th appearance in the Round of 16 but are hoping that the journey does not end there.
The team will need to continue its exceptional play to overcome Franklin and Marshall this weekend, as it looks to improve on its overall NCAA Tournament record of 28-14.