Men’s Basketball Defeats Bates, Tufts Before Losing to Wesleyan in OT Thriller
Issue   |   Tue, 02/07/2017 - 22:06

Amherst men’s basketball has reestablished themselves as one of the best teams in the nation after a successful weekend, in LeFrak gymnasium. With two conference wins against Bates and Tufts this weekend followed by a tough loss to Wesleyan, the purple and white improve to a NESCAC record of 6-3 and an overall record of 16-5. Saturday’s win against Tufts also marks Amherst’s 32nd straight win at home.

Amherst started off the weekend with a 74-65 win over Bates on Friday, Feb. 3 at home. It was a slow start for the purple and white, and they trailed the last-place Bobcats 38-33 at halftime.

Shooting a mere 11.1% from beyond the arc, the normally efficient Amherst offense seemed unable to hit its stride. It was their defensive effort, led by a game-high 13 boards from Johnny McCarthy ’18, that kept the purple and white in the game. Maintaining their composure, Amherst came out hard in the second half and completely turned things around. Sparked by two clutch threes from Michael Riopel ’18, the purple and white went off for 41 points to secure the win. Jayde Dawson ’18 scored 19 of his team-leading 27 points in the second half, and McCarthy added 13 in the victory. With that contribution, McCarthy hit the 1,000-point milestone, becoming only the 29th player in program history to do so.

Saturday’s 84-71 win over Tufts was crucial for the purple and white. The Jumbos came into the game as the top team in the NESCAC, providing Amherst with the perfect opportunity to reassert themselves as number one in the conference. League rivalries aside, there was also a sibling rivalry between senior captain Jeff Racy and his younger brother Patrick, who is a first-year center for the Jumbos.

Riopel led the charge, shooting 5-for-7 from three-point range on his way to a game-high 19 points. Not far behind him was McCarthy with 18 points and Dawson with 14 points. Facilitating the purple and white’s offense was playmaker Reid Berman ’17, who dished out eight assists in the winning effort.

In addition to their huge win, the purple and white celebrated seniors Berman, Racy, Jacob Nabatoff, Eric Conklin, Brady Holding, David George and Diego Magana for their contributions to the program over the past four years.

The plaudits continued to flow for Amherst after the successful weekend, with McCarthy being named NESCAC player of the week for his all- around dominance against both Tufts and Bates. Aside from scoring his 1,000th point on Friday, McCarthy averaged 15.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in the purple and white’s wins.

The purple and white continued this busy stretch of the season with a home matchup against Wesleyan on Tuesday evening. The first half proved to be a tightly-contested affair, with the purple and white and the Cardinals alternating mini-runs. Although Amherst only managed to shoot 37% from the field, the team managed to keep the score close, going into the half only down 30-29.

Amherst’s shooting woes continued as the Cardinals started the second half on a 13-0 run, pushing their lead to 16 before Amherst battled back to tie the affair at 53-53 with five minutes left. After a back and forth next few minutes, Dawson gave Amherst its first lead of the second half with a clutch free throw in the last minute, before Wesleyan hit an off-balance game-tying three with no time left on the clock.

Overtime saw a continuation of the tight end to the second half, with neither team able to pull away. However, an inability to hit clutch free throws damned the purple and white to a 73-72 loss.

Amherst returns to action on Friday, Feb. 10, when they will travel to Vermont to face NESCAC rival Middlebury. The purple and white will play their final game of the regular season the next day, when they face the Hamilton Continentals on the road.