|Jeffs Top Rhode Island College, 62-48|
Jeffs Top Rhode Island College, 62-48
By Alex Kantor
January 30, 2007
PROVIDENCE, RI – The number one ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team traveled across New England tonight to face Rhode Island College in front of a raucous crowd at The Murray Center. Amherst emerged from the game with its unbeaten streak in tact, moving to 21-0 on the year with the 62-48 win.
The RIC campus has had constant buzz since the student body returned to campus this weekend, with the chance to upset the nation’s top team and ruin Amherst’s quest for a perfect regular season. The Anchormen jumped out of the locker room with the same fire that their fans had in the stands, and just nine minutes into the game held a 16-8 lead following a Kinsey Durgin (Greenwood, ME) three-pointer to cap a 12-0 run.
Amherst made some key substitutions, bringing in senior quad-captain Mike Salerno (Shrewsbury, MA) and sophomore Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) hoping for a spark off the bench. Over the following four minutes, the Lord Jeffs climbed back into the game with a 6-0 run of their own.
The first half continued at a fast pace, with neither squad shooting a very high percentage, as the Anchormen held a small edge, firing at 32% from the floor. The Jeffs were 0-for-7 from long range with just 3:44 left in the half, but ended that streak when senior quad-captain Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) and sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) gave Amherst a 26-22 lead with three-pointers on three consecutive possessions.
Following a pair of free throws from Tirell Hill (Bronx, NY), Amherst junior point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) missed on a long range runner to close out the first half, nearly bringing back memories of his Sweet 16 game-tying tally from last year’s NCAA Tournament run.
The Lord Jeffs returned from halftime clinging to a narrow 26-24 lead after shooting an uncharacteristic 34.5% in front of the capacity crowd. Amherst started the second half with back-to-back buckets before Durgin buried a pull-up transition three to keep the game close.
McLaughlin nailed his third three-pointer of the game to extend Amherst’s lead to six points, but just ten seconds later Hill answered with a triple of his own. Amherst senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) put home four unanswered points, bringing his game total to 11 points.
McLaughlin continued his hot shooting with another three one trip before a free throw from junior Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) gave Amherst an 8-point lead at 40-32. Rhode Island was unable to help their own cause as they had racked up five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Hopkins provided the same solid play down low that Amherst fans have come to expect from the 6’10" center, as he dished to Walters for an easy lay-in with the shot clock winding down, and then produced a huge rejection on the following trip.
Amherst stretched its lead to a game-high 13 points when Salerno buried a deep turn-around three pointer with the shot clock showing single digits. After a Rhode Island jumper, McLaughlin found Hopkins on what has become a trademark ally-oop play for Amherst this season.
With 3:55 remaining in regulation Wheeler pulled down an offensive rebound, put it back in and was fouled in the act of shooting. Wheeler finished the three-point play, only to have Rhode Island forward Brian Stanko (Swansea, MA) hit a deep three of his own to close the gap to 11 points.
McLaughlin finished the night with a game-high 23 points, while Baskauskas and Wheeler combined for 25 points and 15 rebounds.
Amherst extends its winning streak to school record 21-games and will return to action this Friday evening when they host Conn. College for a 7 p.m. tip.BOX SCORE
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