Men’s Basketball Stumbles vs. Middlebury, Williams
By Karan Bains '14, Sports Section Editor
After defeating opponent after opponent for nearly the entire regular season, the men’s basketball team saw its impressive 21-game win streak come to an end over the weekend with a pair of road losses to conference rivals Middlebury and Williams.

The Jeffs went into the road trip knowing that the pair of games would likely be their most difficult test of the season, and the seventh-ranked Panthers brought everything they had against third-ranked Amherst. Amherst’s shooting prowess failed to continue in this match-up, as the Jeffs shot a mere 31.1 percent from the field, including a 3-12 performance on three-pointers. Although the Jeffs held Middlebury to a mediocre 36.4 percent shooting percentage as well, the Panthers won the tight defensive battle by a final score of 69 — 61.

The Jeffs fought throughout the game, but their shooting woes doomed them against a quality team. Friday’s 61-point showing was only the second time all season the Jeffs failed to eclipse the 70-point mark. Taylor Barrise ’12 led the Jeffs with a 15-point, eight-rebound performance, helped by double digit scoring efforts from Willy Workman ’13 and Pete Kaasila ’13. Aside from that trio, Amherst’s remaining players struggled mightily, shooting 6-34 from the field, or 17.6 percent.

With the loss, the season-long 21-game win streak finally came to an end for the Jeffs. However, there was little time to recuperate and regroup, as the team traveled to Williamstown to conclude the regular season against the Ephs, the No. 2 team in the country. After the first contest between the teams finished with an overtime win for the Jeffs in LeFrak Gymnasium, this game was highly anticipated. It lived up to its promise, but the end result went against the Jeffs as they fell 70-74. The Jeffs had no answer for James Wang, who dropped 24 points in the first half en route to a 33-point performance. After missing the first meeting between the teams, Williams’ key big man Troy Whittington added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Workman led the Amherst attack with a careerhigh 22 points, eight boards, three blocks and two steals, but the only other Jeff to break double figures in scoring was Jeff Holmes ’12, who had 13 points. The Jeffs faced an eight-point halftime deficit due to Wang’s scoring explosion, but fought back to even the game at 54 with 12:17 remaining. The rest of the contest had the crowd on the edge of their seats, as the lead changed hands four times and the score was knotted up four times as well until a Williams three- pointer with 1:29 remaining effectively ensured the outcome.

While the Jeffs had not experienced the feeling of a loss prior to this weekend, co-captain Conor Meehan ’11 said that the disappointment of last year is still fresh in the team’s mind and that the squad wants to right the ship as soon as possible. “The memories of last year will keep us playing at a high level [no matter what],” he said. “Last season hit us really hard and we never want to experience that again. So I think that has really motivated us and keeps us playing well because we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of last year.”

Despite their enormously successful season, the Jeffs’ weekend performance dropped them to the number three seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament, behind the Ephs and the Panthers. This Saturday, the tournament commences and the Jeffs take on the sixth seed, Bates College, in LeFrak. While the Jeffs beat the Bobcats by six in their last meeting, they will have to step their game up and regain their winning form if they hope to make it far in the tournament and possibly earn a chance at redemption against one of the foes that beat them this weekend.

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 18:58:56