Men’s Basketball Looks to Gain Momentum in Postseason Play
Issue   |   Tue, 02/17/2015 - 22:41
Peter Connolly '18
First-year Jayde Dawson contributes an avergage of 7.7 points per game.

While men’s basketball continued its winning ways with a mid-week victory over Lasell, pushing Amherst’s winning streak to six straight, the Jeffs were unable to conclude the regular season in the manner in which they had hoped for after falling to Middlebury on the road. With these two games in the books, the Jeffs finished the 2015 regular season with an 18-6 overall record and a 6-4 NESCAC record.

Lasell opened its game against Amherst at LeFrak Gymnasium with a three-pointer, but the Jeffs would erase the lead before the Lasers had a chance to score again and continue to lead for the entire game. Indeed, the Jeffs responded to Lasell’s opening 3-point field goal with an 8-0 run, which became a 19-2 streak.

The Jeffs led by 15 points at 19-4 with more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half, but the Lasers showed some signs of life, as they managed to cut the lead down to 8 points on a few occasions, and to as little as 7 points with two minutes to play in the half. However, a 6-0 run for the Jeffs to close out the half would give Amherst a 44-31 lead over Lasell at the half.
Amherst posted only 25 points in the second half, as the team, but their fairly low second half output proved to be enough, as the Jeffs defeated the Lasers 69-52.

Balanced scoring characterized Amherst’s effort over Lasell, as four players notched double figures in the game. First-year guard Johnny McCarthy and forward David George ’17 both had 14 points, while George also had four blocks and finished with a double-double after pulling down 11 rebounds. Joining McCarthy and George in double figures were junior guard/forward Connor Green and forward Jacob Nabatoff ’17, who both had 10 points.

While the Jeffs did not perform at their best against the Lasers, the team still managed to secure a sizable victory. “Although we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, it was important to keep our win streak going to keep our minds in the right spot, and keep the ball rolling, so to speak,” junior captain and forward Ben Pollack said.

Against Middlebury, the Jeffs were unable to keep their momentum going, however.

While the Panthers took an early lead in the contest, a solid run by the Jeffs gave them a lead about seven minutes into the game. The Panthers would quickly respond and be in control for most of the game, as the Panthers never trailed by more than two points against the Jeffs.

Middlebury took a 41-34 lead into halftime and outscored the Jeffs by a similar margin in the second half, as the Panthers once again scored 41 points in the second half of play, while the Jeffs posted 35. Overall, the Jeffs would fall 82-69 in the regular season finale, as Middlebury shot better from the field than Amherst and more than doubled the Jeffs’ points in the paint total (the Panthers won the points in the paint battle at 42-20).

In the 82-69 loss against the Panthers, Green provided most of the offensive punch for the Jeffs, as he continued his sharpshooting from beyond the arc. Against Middlebury, Green had a game-high 29 points, as he went 10-18 on field goals and 7-11 from 3-point range. Sophomore guards Jeff Racy and Reid Berman also posted double figures, as Berman finished with 11 points and Racy scored 10. Green, George and McCarthy also combined for a solid total of 26 rebounds against the Panthers.

“We had no energy, no drive and on their senior day and last game of their season, they certainly did,” Pollack said. “We were static offensively and not communicating enough defensively, and missed a lot of easy shots and layups too. This loss definitely hurts us, especially because it dropped us from second to fifth in the NESCAC right before conference tournament play starts.”

This weekend, the Jeffs will look to once again do some damage in the NESCAC Tournament. Amherst will be the defending champions heading into the tournament, as they have won the past three. However, Amherst faces a different challenge this year, as this is the first time in the past four years that the Jeffs will not be playing as the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Tournament.

Last year, the Jeffs won the NESCAC Tournament after knocking off Colby, Trinity and Williams.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, the Jeffs (the No. 5 seed) will face Tufts (the No. 4 seed) on the road at 2 p.m. in the NESCAC Quarterfinals.

Earlier on this season, Tufts (who closed the regular season with a 13-11 overall record and 6-4 mark in the NESCAC) got the better of the Jeffs. Just over a month ago, the Jeffs lost to the Jumbos by a score of 80-53.

This time around, the Jumbos will be without one of their better performers, however, as Hunter Sabety (who scored 14 points against the Jeffs during the meeting between Tufts and Amherst this season and who had averaged over 15 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game prior to sustaining an injury) will be unable to play due to injury.

The last time the Jeffs played Tufts in the NESCAC Tournament, they had the edge over the Jumbos, as the Jeffs defeated Tufts 80-64 in the 2013 NESCAC semifinals.

The Jeffs will certainly have their work cut out for them going forward if they hope to play meaningful games deep into the postseason.

“I expect us to come out with a ton of energy,” Pollack said. “We need to beat Tufts to have a decent chance at getting in the NCAA Tournament, so it is extremely important that we win this game and keep moving on in the tournament.”

If the Jeffs manage to defeat Tufts this coming Saturday, they will likely have to face some combination of the trio of top NESCAC seeds the following weekend, as Trinity (the No. 1 seed and 9-1 in the NESCAC), Bowdoin (No. 2 seed, 7-3 in the NESCAC) and Bates (the No. 3 seed, 7-3 in the NESCAC) are all dangerous and talented squads.