Men’s Basketball Limps into Tourney
By Leon Rauch '12, Staff Writer
In the final week of their regular season, the men’s basketball team fell by consecutive one-sided margins to Brandeis University, Williams and Middlebury Colleges to cap a highly frustrating and disappointing home stretch of the season. From a great 13-3 start, the Lord Jeffs dropped seven of their next eight decisions over the last three weeks to finish the regular season slate at 14-10 and 3-6 within the conference. Despite their second-half troubles, however, Coach Hixon’s squad will still be heading into NESCAC tournament play this coming weekend as the number six seed.

The week began with a lopsided 71-55 loss at Brandeis, where the home team took the lead early and never trailed the rest of the way. The Judges combined outstanding offensive production (shooting at a 52 percent clip) with tenacious defensive play that resulted in 20 points off 16 Amherst turnovers. Down by only eight at the break, the Lord Jeffs saw the game quickly slip out of their reach after intermission, thanks to the Judges’ effective full-court press that led to a 13-2 run during the first four minutes of the second half. Points-in-the-paint stats also favored Brandeis, 32-18. Tri-captain Steve Wheeler ’10 and Allen Williamson ’13 each had 14 points to prop up the Lord Jeffs in a losing cause.

Amherst looked to redeem themselves Friday night against rival Williams in LeFrak Gym, where the Lord Jeffs had not lost this season, but it was not to be. The Ephs succeeded in spoiling the Lord Jeffs’ home streak in front of a capacity crowd of 1,600, with a resounding 81-60 verdict. Besides securing the usual bragging rights, Williams (22-1 overall and 8-0 in the NESCAC ) guarantees itself the top seed in the conference tournament with the victory. Much like the game against Brandeis, the Lord Jeffs trailed narrowly at halftime, only to see their opponents blow the game open with a big 13-3 run after the break. Leading by only 39-37 at intermission, the Ephs went on to outscore Amherst 47-23 in the final minutes. High-point honors for Amherst went to sophomore David Waller, who picked up 12 points.

The unrelenting week ended with the last regular season game against Middlebury in LeFrak, where once again the visitors proved too much for the Jeffs to handle. Playing on Amherst’s Senior Day, the Panthers walked away with an 85-72 victory, handing Amherst its sixth straight conference loss and a 14-10 record (3-6 NESCAC). The win improved Middlebury’s record to an imposing 21-2 (8-1 NESCAC). Early on in the contest, the lead seesawed back and forth between the two squads until an 11-0 spree gave the visitors a 23-12 lead. Amherst answered with an offensive spurt of their own that put them within striking range of the visitors, as the half closed with the Panthers up 46-38. The second half saw Amherst cut the lead to five, 63-58, at the 10-minute mark before Middlebury pushed back to stretch the lead to 85-72 by the time the buzzer sounded. Bright spots for the Lord Jeffs were first-year 6’9” center Peter Kaasila, who notched 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, and classmate Spencer Noon, who scored a career-high 14 from the guard position.

With the win, Middlebury wraps up the second seed slot for the upcoming league tournament, while Amherst will enter as the number six seed, playing on the road against three-seeded Colby this Saturday at 4 p.m. In a Jan. 30 regular season meeting, Colby narrowly edged the visiting Jeffs 72-68 — a result that must give Amherst cause for optimism, something in short supply of late.

Issue 15, Submitted 2010-02-24 15:23:53