Men’s Basketball Quiets Ephs; Earns Three More Wins
Issue   |   Tue, 02/07/2012 - 20:34
Alec Jacobson '14
Jeff Holmes ’12 beats a defender during a home win over Hamilton. The Jeffs are undefeated at home and 18-2 overall.

The men’s basketball team hit the road this week to tip off against a pair of NESCAC opponents in Williams and Trinity before coming home on Tuesday to take on Rhode Island College.

While all three games were valuable experiences, the contest against the hated Ephs was an especially riveting match-up. Williams jumped ahead briefly in the first half, but the Jeffs fought back to go into halftime with the score favoring Amherst at 39–31.

The second half was another back-and-forth affair, as Williams buckled down on defense and held the Jeffs scoreless for a five-minute stretch that allowed the Ephs back in the game.

The two teams were deadlocked at 65 with 14 seconds on the clock, but Aaron Toomey ’14 made sure the game ended without an overtime period by drawing a foul and calmly knocking down a pair of free throws to give Amherst a 67-65 win.

Though the Jeffs struggled to find the net at times during the game, hitting only one of every three shots, they relied on other aspects of the game to squeak a victory. The team turned the ball over only twice and shot an impressive 18-23 from the free throw stripe. Toomey and Pete Kaasila ’13 led the way for Amherst with 16 points each, with Kaasila shooting seven for 10 from the field for the night.

After the competitive battle against Williams, the Jeffs went to Trinity to continue asserting their NESCAC dominance. Unlike the previous game, however, this one was a blowout, with Amherst coming out victorious by a comfortable 61–30 score.

Among the main contributors for Amherst were Allen Williamson ’13, who dropped 12 points and added six boards, and Workman, who went four for five from the field for 11 points. More generally, the stifling Amherst defense flustered the Trinity squad and tilted the game in the Jeffs’ favor, a good sign for postseason play.

On Tuesday, the Jeffs extended their young winning streak to five games by defeating Rhode Island College in the friendly confines of LeFrak Gymnasium in a contest marked by a pair of notable performances. Taylor Barrise ’12 scored 12 points and hit three of his five three-pointers.

The third three-ball proved historic, as it gave Barrise 199 three-point field goals in his collegiate career, breaking the Amherst program record previously held by Jamal Wilson ’97. The trey gave the Jeffs a four-point lead with just under 10 minutes to go in the game.

Toomey also brought his best game to the court, scoring a career high 25 points and leading the Jeffs to a 79–69 win against a tough opponent that gave Amherst a battle in last year’s NCAA Tournament. In addition, Kaasila and Allen Williamson ’13 also scored in double figures for Amherst, while Workman chipped in for 11 boards.

Free throw shooting, as always, was an important deciding factor in the outcome of this game, and the Jeffs made 26 out of 28 free throws. By making the most of their opportunities at the line, Amherst avoided another back-and-forth showdown with RIC filled with late drama, like in the national tournament.

The momentum gained throughout this successful week showed in the RIC game, and the Jeffs look to continue to improve as the season winds down.

The team travels to Bates and Tufts this weekend in a pair of conference matchups, and then will invite Williams and Middlebury to LeFrak to close out the regular season on Feb. 10 and 11, respectively.

A short week after the last whistle blows on the regular season, the NESCAC Tournament kicks off on Feb. 18, with the Jeffs looking to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the bracket.

Even if Amherst fails to win NESCACs, the team is assured an at-large bid to the national tournament, but the Jeffs will undoubtedly come out strong nevertheless to avenge their loss to Middlebury last year.

The last few games of the regular season, however, will be crucial to the team’s confidence level going into postseason play, so Amherst must crank up the intensity this weekend to prepare for the challenges to come.