Men's Basketball Maintains Three-Game Winning Streak
Issue   |   Tue, 02/03/2015 - 23:16

After a recent setback against a competitive Trinity team, the Amherst men’s basketball team responded well this past weekend at home against a pair of NESCAC opponents and on the Tuesday evening in a non-conference matchup.

With the victories, the Jeffs now hold a three-game game winning streak, sport a 15-5 overall record (4-3 in the NESCAC), and will look to continue to do damage in the NESCAC after rising through the league standings this past week.

This past Friday night, junior guard Connor Green helped the Jeffs jump out to an early lead against Colby. Over the first two minutes of the game, the Jeffs went on a 9-0 run, with Green scoring seven points during that stretch. After the Mules finally got on the board, the Jeffs responded with another big run, as an 11-2 stretch made the score 20-4.

Remarkably, in a little over six minutes into the contest, Green had already scored 16 points and drained four three-pointers, which helped Amherst build a 17-point lead at 23-6.

While Green added a significant amount of offense early on, he was not the lone contributor to Amherst’s big win.

During the first half, sophomore forward David George scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds, while first-year guard Johnny McCarthy had nine points, five boards, and three blocks in the first half.

Leading 51-32 at the half, the Jeffs managed to maintain their lead in the second half.

Early in the second half, Green would add another three-pointer, to finish with 19 points, including five three-point field goals, in 16 minutes of action. McCarthy and George continued to be big contributors on the offensive and defensive end, while Reid Berman, first-year guard Jayde Dawson, and guard Jeff Racy ’17 further sparked the offense in the second half.

Overall, in Amherst’s 83-62 win over Colby, the Jeffs greatly outshot the Mules from the field, on three-pointers, and on foul shots, which was an encouraging effort after a poor shooting performance against a talented Trinity defense.

Amherst had a quick turnaround after their victory over the Mules, as they squared off against Bowdoin at home the following afternoon.

The offense continued to carry the Jeffs, as they benefitted from another burst by Green and a strong game by McCarthy, Dawson, Racy and Berman.

The Jeffs took a 35-32 into halftime against the Polar Bears. While Amherst jumped out to a nine-point lead more than midway through the first half, Bowdoin fought their way back into the game.

Green drained four three-pointers in the first half, while McCarthy poured in 11 points, after hitting three shots from long range. Green (six rebounds in the first half) and McCarthy (who grabbed four boards) each proved to be key in the rebounding department as well.

After a close first half, the Jeffs secured the victory by outscoring the Polar Bears 46-34 in the second half, resulting in an 81-66 win.

Green continued to shoot impressively well, as he scored another 16 points in the second half to finish with a season-high 33 points. Green also pulled down 12 boards to record the double-double. For his efforts against the Mules and the Polar Bears, Green was recognized as the NESCAC Player of the Week.

“Connor was shooting ridiculously well,” junior captain Ben Pollack said. “Connor is either shooting at a good clip or a stupid clip, and that clip was ridiculous. No one was stopping Connor in either of those games.”

McCarthy was a factor in all aspects of the game, as he finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Dawson’s 10 points against Bowdoin and Berman’s eight assists were two other notable individual statistics of note in Amherst’s matchup with the Polar Bears.

Of the games this past weekend, Pollack said, “we first and foremost hit shots. We got good shots, we were creating for each other, and driving and dishing.”

Green offered another explanation that accounts for Amherst’s success against Colby and Bowdoin. “We pushed it well in transition and were able to get easier looks in transition, and able to do a good job of exploiting the zone, making the extra pass, and getting good looks,” Green said.

Tuesday evening, the Jeffs faced Rhode Island College on the road. During the first half, Amherst never trailed and led by as many as 12 points with 8:35 remaining, at 25-13.

However, the Anchormen managed to trim the lead down to four points with less than a minute remaining in the half before Amherst scored another basket to take a 32-26 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the Jeffs continued to maintain and even grow their lead.

A pair of Amherst free throws gave the Jeffs a 14-point lead at 62-48 with under five minutes left in the match, but the Anchormen would respond with a quick 8-0 run to narrow Amherst’s advantage to 62-56 with a little less than 2:30 remaining. Rhode Island College trailed by four points at 65-61 with just over a minute to go, but the Jeffs managed to grow their lead in the final minute and secure a 72-63 victory.

Against the Anchormen, balanced scoring and stellar shooting was the key for the Jeffs, as four players finished in double figures and six players scored nine points or more.

Racy led the scoring with 14 points, on four three pointers, Green, Nabatoff, and sophomore forward Eric Conklin each finished with 10, while Berman and Dawson each poured in nine points. Green led the rebounding efforts with 10 boards to finish with a double-double, Berman continued to effectively distribute the ball with six assists, and McCarthy turned in another solid all-around effort with seven points, eight rebounds, and five assists.

“We had a little bit of growing pains to start the season,” Green said. “We’ve had a lot of new faces, between transfers, freshmen and sophomores who hadn’t really played much coming into the season. I think we are finally coming together and figuring out what it takes to win, in terms of being unselfish, bringing balance, and pushing the ball and running with the ball.”

This weekend, the Jeffs will travel to Connecticut for a pair of road games against NESCAC opponents. On Friday night at 7 p.m., the Jeffs will take on the Connecticut College Camels, who are 0-6 in the NESCAC this year and sport a below .500 overall winning percentage.

The next afternoon at 3 p.m., the Jeffs will face the Wesleyan Cardinals (3-3 in the NESCAC and 14-6 overall) on the road.

Less than a month ago, Amherst beat Wesleyan 69-46 at home. However, it is likely that the Wesleyan team the Jeffs will be facing this upcoming squad will be playing with renewed confidence and energy after the Cardinals’ recent 80-71 victory against Tufts, which is a talented squad that comfortably handled the Jeffs earlier this season.

“No NESCAC game will be easy and it’s been kind of a weird season in the conference,” Green said. “If we get these two wins, we will be at 6-3 in the NESCAC, and that could have huge implications for the standings and the [NESCAC Tournament] seeding.”