Men’s Basketball Enjoys Two Dramatic NCAA Tournament Wins in LeFrak
Issue   |   Tue, 03/08/2016 - 23:01
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The men’s basketball team hosted the first two rounds of NCAA championship tournament play last weekend in LeFrak, coming out of the bracket victorious

The Amherst men’s basketball team impressed last weekend in the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division III tournament, pulling out victories in two close games to advance to the Sweet 16 this Friday. The men took on Husson University last Friday night in LeFrak and then a very talented 21-8 SUNY Cortland team on Saturday evening in two nail-biters.

The purple and white came out strong in front of a sizeable home court crowd on Friday night. The two teams fought through three tie scores in the first ten minutes before a Connor Green ’16 layup and a Jeff Racy ’17 three-pointer put the squad up by five points, 21-16.

Husson grabbed the momentum back, however, as they went on their own 13-0 run before the Amherst defense could catch up to the Eagles’ fast-paced, transition offense. With Husson leading 29-21 with five minutes left in the first half, the Amherst offense went into overdrive, scoring 10 of the next 14 points to tie up the game at 31. The two teams again struggled to gain and keep the lead, heading into halftime at 40-36 in favor of the Eagles.

The purple and white continued chipping away at the Husson lead in the second half, taking a 56-55 advantage on a pair of Michael Riopel ’18 free throws. Following three more lead changes, a phenomenal blocked 3-point shot by Riopel opened up sophomore guard Johnny McCarthy ’18 for a huge breakaway layup to once again put Amherst up by one at the 6:15 mark.
A 3-point make from the Eagles put them ahead by one with 30 seconds remaining on the clock, but demonstrating the consistency we have seen from him all season, Racy came through at the 15-second mark with a go-ahead 3 of his own to seal the 74-72 win for the purple and white.

McCarthy was Amherst’s top scorer in their matchup against the Eagles, leading the purple and white with 21 points on 8-12 shooting from the field. Racy, Green and David George ’17 chipped in 11 points each, and George led all players with 11 rebounds on the game.

Green shined in Amherst’s Saturday night’s matchup against the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons in the second round of NCAA tournament action.

Green led the purple and white with 20 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field, including a 3 for 9 tally behind the arc. The senior captain also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to pave the way for Amherst’s impressive 12 second-chance points on offensive rebounds.

The purple and white came out with a strong first-half start, using three pointers from McCarthy and fellow sophomore Jayde Dawson and four points from George to jump out to a 12-3 advantage over the Red Dragons. Cortland didn’t stay down for long, though. The Red Dragons used a run of their own, capped by a long three, to trim Amherst’s lead back down to four at 34-30 going into the locker room.

Another back and forth start to the half saw four more lead changes before, trailing 68-64 with 1:18 left in regulation, Green fought his way to a critical offensive rebound and put-back to set up the purple and white for a dramatic finish.

Trailing 68-66 with 42 seconds left on the clock, Dawson hit the second of his two free throws to pull Amherst within one. Seconds later, a defensive rebound by McCarthy on a missed Cortland jumper led to a dramatic contested layup by Dawson. McCarthy grabbed Dawson’s miss and was fouled in the process, sending him to the charity stripe with five seconds left in regulation. Two huge made free throws from McCarthy put the ball in the hands of the Red Dragons for one more chance at victory, but Cortland’s final shot missed the mark.

These two crucial tournament wins from the purple and white improve their record to 39-17 overall in NCAA postseason play under head coach David Hixon and send them to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six years. Next up, Amherst will take on Babson on Friday, March 11 at Tufts in Medford, Massachusetts.