Men’s Hoops Perfect in New Year; Jeffs 6-0 in NESCAC, Ride Win Streak to 12
Issue   |   Tue, 01/29/2013 - 22:36
Niahlah Hope '15
After becoming the 25th player in Amherst history to eclipse the 1,000 point barrier, junior guard Aaron Toomey twice tied a career-high 34 points.

While most of their peers were enjoying a restful winter break, the men’s basketball team got down to business over the holidays. After starting their season on a strong note, winning their first five pre-season games, the Jeffs looked to be in a good place heading into the start of the regular season.

The team did stumble following that blistering start, losing two of their next three games to Springfield and Babson, respectively, but have regrouped impressively since then. The Jeffs responded to those losses with a winning streak that is currently at 12 games. The team now sits at 17-2 on the season and has maintained an undefeated record in conference.

Hosting Babson on Dec. 6, the Jeffs suffered their first home loss since the 2009-2010 season. The defeat broke a 35-game winning streak in LeFrak Gymnasium, as the Jeffs’ defense was unable to contain the hot-shooting Beavers. Babson hit 12 three-pointers on the afternoon, making over half their attempts and did just enough down the stretch to hold off a last-minute Amherst comeback. However, rather than getting down on themselves, the Jeffs showed impressive resolve, bouncing back to win against Brandeis on Dec. 8. Paced by Peter Kaasila ’13, who poured in 21 points, one shy of his career high, Amherst led by as many as 16 before settling for a 12-point victory, 76-64. Notable in the win was the performance of Aaron Toomey ’14, who became the 25th player in Amherst’s history to reach 1,000 career points.

Building on the momentum from that victory, the Jeffs went on to rout their next two opponents. Playing at Anna Maria College, Amherst pulled away in the latter portion of the first half and never looked back. They held a 14-point cushion at halftime and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the game, eventually winning by 27 points. Conner Green ’16 led the Jeffs, posting an impressive line of 24 points, on 3-5 shooting from distance and seven rebounds. Backing up that performance, the Jeffs then picked apart Medgar Evers College en route to a 32-point victory. Amherst led by as many as 29 points in the first half, coasting to the easy win. Six Jeffs scored in double figures, as their balanced attack overwhelmed the Cougars.

With a couple easy wins under their belt, Amherst began their NESCAC conference schedule with back-to-back games. Facing off first against Wesleyan, the Jeffs rode Toomey’s hot shooting to a 75-61 victory. Toomey connected on seven three-pointers en route to a 23-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance.

His blistering pace was contagious, as Amherst shot 59 percent from behind the arc, nailing a season-high 13 treys. Yet, even with the scoring barrage, the Cardinals kept pace with the Jeffs, keeping the deficit within single digits throughout the first half. However, a decisive 12-0 second half spurt finally allowed the Jeffs to blow the game open, and the team coasted to the victory.

The following day, Amherst played at Conn. College, earning a 77-67 victory to move to 2-0 in conference. Willy Workman ’13 led the Jeffs’ attack, posting all-around impressive line with 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, and three blocks.
Surprisingly, Conn. actually had the advantage in total rebounds and points-in-the-paint, but Amherst’s 12-of-23 shooting from long-range kept them in the driver’s seat, as the Jeffs rolled to another relatively trouble-free victory.
However, the stretch of comfortable victories did not continue in Amherst’s next contest against Hamilton. The Jeffs found themselves down 77-73 with 1:16 remaining in regulation before rattling off six consecutive points to pull out an improbable win.

Kaasila contributed hugely to the victory, scoring four points in the final minute, including the winning basket with two seconds remaining in regulation. Kaasila finished the night with 21 points, while teammate Toomey contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. The thrilling victory kept Amherst undefeated in conference and moved the team 10 games over .500 for the season at 12-2.

Following their comeback victory, Amherst returned home for their next five games. Among those were two non-conference matchups against Wesleyan and archrival Williams. This second contest against the Cardinals was much closer, as the Jeffs trailed early on.

After opening the second half on a 14-2 spurt, Amherst was able to make enough free throws down the stretch to hold Wesleyan at bay. The game against Williams followed a similar script, as the Jeffs again got off to a slow start.

After falling behind by as many as 11 points, the Jeffs finally came to life at the end of the first half, putting together a 15-0 run that gave them a lead they would not relinquish. Workman led Amherst on the afternoon, putting on a show in front of a raucous home crowd to the tune of a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds.

In their three conference games, the Jeffs held tough as well. Hosting Bowdoin, Amherst used a balanced offensive attack to pull away with an 80-70 victory. All five starters scored in double figures for the Jeffs, and Conner Green came off the bench to tack on 15 points, as the Jeffs improved to 16-2 against the Polar Bears since the 1999-2000 season. Amherst employed a similar offensive barrage in defeating Colby College, as well. This time though, the firepower came mostly from Toomey, who tied his career-high with 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting, including six-of-eight from distance. Behind his hot-shooting, the Jeffs led by 11 at the half and continued to pull away in the second, winning by a score of 98-75.

Finally, in their last game of the homestand, the Jeffs played host to Trinity College. Behind a career-best 23 points from Kaasila, Amherst continued their trend of crushing victories, powering their way to an 83-55 win. Toomey put together a solid game as well, contributing 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals, as the Jeffs extended their winning streak against the Bantams to seven games.

Last night, the Jeffs again rode Toomey’s scoring prowess, as he dropped 34 (again) and helped his team to a 74-65 win at no. 18 RIC.

With their victories, the Jeffs continue to move up the national rankings. After falling as low as No. 25, Amherst has moved back into the top 15 and will look to continue that improvement with big games against Tufts and Bates on the slate for this coming weekend.