Jeffs Drop Two of Three
By Leon Rauch '12, Staff Writer
In the wake of a pair of disappointing losses to Bowdoin and Colby by razor-thin margins the previous weekend, the men’s basketball team got back on track with a romp over the Anchormen of Rhode Island College (RIC), 105 to 84 in LeFrak Gymnasium on Feb. 2. The Amherst offense dominated the game, with five players scoring in double figures, paced by senior Steve Wheeler and sophomore Jeff Holmes (26 and 23 points respectively). Despite the fact that RIC came into the game with the Little East conference’s top-rated defense, they could do little to contain the Jeffs, who shot a sizzling 69 percent during the first half to enjoy a 60-48 lead at intermission. The Jeffs’ continued to scorch the nets in the second half, enabling them to push the lead to 23 before coasting home comfortably en route to their first 100+ point outing of the season. With the victory, the Jeffs upped their overall record to 14-5 and remained undefeated at home (7-0).

Once again, the road proved not as hospitable, however, as Amherst traveled Feb. 5 to Lewiston, Maine, where the Bates College Bobcats thoroughly throttled the Lord Jeffs to the tune of 76-47. As the score suggests, the Jeffs were held to a frigid 30 percent field goal percentage for the game, shooting only 7 for 28 in the second half, to go with a mere three assists for the entire contest. Bates, on the other hand, shot over 50 percent in the first half and ended the game shooting at a healthy 54 percent clip, including five for seven from beyond the arc. Only trailing by eight at the end of the first half, Amherst’s offense crumbled after intermission, as Amherst’s leading scorers Wheeler, sophomore Taylor Barrise and Holmes were each held to 10 or fewer points on the day. The conference setback, Amherst’s first loss to Bates since the 1987-1988 season, dropped the Lord Jeffs to 14-6 overall and 3-3 in NESCAC play, while Bates moved to 11-10 overall and 3-4 in the conference.

To rub salt in their wounds, the Lord Jeffs suffered perhaps an even more painful defeat the next day, this time a 69-68 squeaker at the hands of Tufts on the Jumbos’ home court. Amherst led for most of the seesaw contest and held a 43-38 halftime advantage, which they managed to stretch to 10 at the 13:46 mark in the second half before Tufts mounted its comeback. Trailing by a point with less than a minute to play, the Jumbos forced a turnover that led to the go-ahead and game-winning basket, which Amherst was unable to overcome despite having a couple of chances in the waning seconds. Holmes was the high-point man for the Lord Jeffs, while first-year Allen Williamson came off the bench to score 14. Besides ending Amherst’s eight-game winning skein against the Jumbos and marking the Jeffs’ fourth loss in five games, the defeat dropped the Lord Jeffs to 14-7 on the season and 3-4 in the NESCAC, good enough only for a fifth-place tie with Bowdoin and Trinity in league standings.

In their final road game before the NESCAC tournament, the Jeffs dropped to 14-8 on the season after a 71-55 defeat at the hands of 21st-ranked Brandeis University. After Wheeler opened the game with a three-pointer, Brandeis responded with a three of their own, and went on to take a 9-3 lead that they would not relinquish. The Jeffs closed the gap to 9-8 on another three, this time from Holmes, but that would be as close as they got in the first half, as they went into the half down 35-27.

Five Amherst turnovers to start the second half allowed the Judges’ lead to balloon to 48-29, and the game did not get much better from there. Waller’s trey with 6:40 remaining got the Jeffs back into a single-digit deficit, but hope faded quickly as the Judges kept up their onslaught and gashed the Jeffs for a few quick points to close out the game.

Despite shooting 7-13 from behind the arc, the Jeffs struggled in two-point territory, getting outscored 32-18 in the paint, and 20-2 for points off of turnovers. Wheeler finished with 14 points, and his four made threes put him at 187 for his career, only 11 makes behind Jamal Wilson ’97 for the school record.

The Jeffs come home for their final two games of the regular season, both of which are also NESCAC games. First up is Williams College, on Friday at 8 p.m.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 03:24:06