Men’s Basketball Makes Post-Season Run, Falls in Close Matchup with Benedictine
Issue   |   Tue, 03/22/2016 - 23:20
Mark Box
Connor Greene ’16 will graduate as the second all-time leading scorer.

The men’s basketball team continued their impressive postseason run over the break, beating Tufts University for a second time this season to move on to the Final Four, where they lost a hard fought matchup to the top ranked team in the country, Benedictine University.

Senior Connor Green scored a game-high 25 points as the 15th-ranked purple and white posted an 86-73 victory over the Jumbos in the NCAA Division III Championship Sectional Final in Medford, Massachusetts on Saturday, March 12th. Contributing to the win, Amherst shot 47 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from three-point range, while connecting on 70.8 percent from the free throw line.

After a close start to the game, Jeff Racy ’17 put up a hard-fought layup that helped the purple and white grab the momentum to go on a 10-0 run, giving the squad a 24-12 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. The Jumbos continued to chip away at Amherst’s lead but a clutch three by junior Jacob Nabatoff coming off the bench put the purple and white up 40-35 at the half.

At the 13:49 mark of the second period, the Jumbos superior offensive rebounding worked in their favor to put them up 54-51. Tufts was able to run its lead to as many seven following a bucket underneath at the 11:15 mark, but sophomore Johnny McCarthy answered with a three-pointer to make it 62-58. The sides exchanged baskets and battled to two tie scores over the next seven-plus minutes before David George ’17 hit the front end of two free throws to break a 73-73 stalemate.
From there, the purple and white mounted an impressive 12-0 run over the final 3:32 as Green, Michael Riopel ’18 and Reid Berman ’17 each made a bucket, while McCarthy added a strike from beyond-the-arc an and a free throw to help seal the 86-73 win.

This impressive win over NESCAC rival Tufts sent the purple and white into an exciting Final Four matchup against one of the hottest teams in the country, an undefeated Benedictine University.

In a back and forth start to the contest, McCarthy, Racy, Green and George all tallied points for the purple and white, while Benedictine matched them step for step, taking a 16-14 lead with just over nine minutes left to play in the half. Defense took over on both sides, however, when the teams battled through four minutes of scoreless play before Benedictine hit a pair of free throws to extend their lead to four. Led by a Green three and a subsequent baseline bucket, the purple and white led at halftime, holding a 27-23 advantage over the Eagles.

In the second half, Benedictine scored a quick pair of baskets to knot the score at 29, before Dawson knocked down a three to put Amherst up 32-31. Amherst struggled to keep the momentum in the second half, allowing Benedictine to gain a 39-32 lead before Eric Conklin ’17 helped out in the paint to pull the purple and white within four.

Amherst tried to hold on while the Eagles picked up speed. Trailing by eight, Green delivered a pair of three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to pull Amherst within four before a layup by Dawson and a free throw a minute later set the score at 56-55 in favor of the Eagles. The purple and white kept it a one-possession game until the end, but Benedictine hit two free throws to put them up 63-60 with seconds remaining. Amherst had one final shot at tying the game, but Green’s three-point attempt hit the back iron as the Eagles held on for a hard-fought 63-60 victory.

With this impressive postseason run, Amherst men’s basketball improved their NCAA tournament record to 41-18. Connor Green finished his spectacular senior season with 1,757 points and will graduate as Amherst’s second all-time leading scorer.