21st Ranked Men's Basketball Hands No. 10 Williams First Loss, 72-70, in Overtime
January 12, 2002
Amherst looked like they might blow Williams out of the gym in the early-going, outscoring the Ephs 19-4 over the game's first 9:25. Fitzsimons ignited the barrage with a nifty reverse off a slick feed from Faulkner, and sophomore sharpshooter John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) scored nine points on 4-for-4 shooting during the run. Williams chipped away, however, using a 9-0 run of its own - capped by a mid-range jumper by first-year guard Jaris Cole (Sand Diego, CA) - to trim the deficit to four points, 25-21, with 1:57 remaining. After the two teams traded buckets, Amherst had the ball for the final possession of the first half and Faulkner drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc, sending the Jeffs into the locker room with a 30-23 halftime lead.
Things grew tense from there. Williams junior swingman Tim Folan (Kensington, MD) opened the second half with five straight points on a long-range trifecta and a runner in the paint to cut Amherst's lead to two points. The Jeffs managed to hold a tenuous advantage for the next 8:37, but never led by more three points during that stretch. Williams finally broke through when junior forward Drew DeMuth (Carlisle, PA) hit the first of two free throws to knot the score at 44-44 with 9:26 left in regulation. Amazingly, seven lead changes and four more ties followed.
Trailing 60-59 after a three pointer by Williams sophomore playmaker Michael Crotty (Belmont, MA) at the 1:45 mark, Donovan rattled in a blind shot and drew a foul for Amherst, completing a clutch three-point play to put the hosts ahead 62-60 with 1:18 on the clock. Not to be outdone, Crotty answered yet again with a gorgeous up-and-under move just beyond Fitzsimons' reach, giving Amherst the ball with a tie score, 62-62, and 53 seconds remaining. Junior forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) tried to win it for Amherst, but his three-pointer from the left wing sailed over the rim and into the waiting hands of DeMuth, who called timeout with 32 seconds left. With the capacity crowd on its feet, Williams got the look it wanted, but Crotty's layup bounced around and trickled off the rim as time expired, sending what was becoming the wildest Amherst-Williams game in recent memory into overtime.
The extra session didn't start out well for Amherst. After a layup by DeMuth and a pair of Zieja free throws produced yet another tie score, Folan struck again with five unanswered points, including his third three-pointer, to put the Ephs on top 69-64. Donovan rebounded with a layup, set up by a Faulkner assist, and Zieja hit another charity toss to trim the lead back to two points, 69-67, with 1:39 left. After Crotty hit the first and bricked the second of two free throws with 30 seconds remaining, Amherst seemed destined to try and tie the game with a three-pointer in the waning seconds, but Faulkner had one more trick up his sleeve.
Once again it was Faulkner with the ball as time ticked off the clock. With eight second left, the icy junior shook Crotty and slithered into the paint, floating what he hoped would be the game-winner toward the open end of the gymnasium. The shot drew the back of the iron, however, but caromed right to an opportunistic Fitzsimons, who tipped Amherst's only offensive rebound of the game back into the bucket, giving the Jeffs an exasperating 71-70 lead with just five seconds remaining.
Williams frantically inbounded the ball but committed a turnover and was forced to foul, sending Harper to the stripe with two ticks remaining. Harper hit the first but missed the second, giving Williams one last chance. Unbelievably, DeMuth got a decent look from the left baseline with one second remaining - a shot that bounced around the rim and nearly went in. It just wasn't meant to be for Williams, and Amherst's faithful rushed the court as time finally expired - closing the books on yet another chapter in this long and storied rivalry.
Amherst overcame a lot in the victory, including a whopping 47-21 rebounding deficit and the short end of a 16-1 margin on the offensive glass. The Jeffs shot a scorching 50.0 percent (27-for-54) from the field, however, and forced Williams into 24 turnovers to overcome their deficiency on the boards.
Donovan paced Amherst with a career-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting, while Fitzsimons filled the box score with 16 points, a team-high seven rebounds and a career-high six steals. Zieja rounded out Amherst players in double figures with 12 points, while Faulkner added nine points and a game-high six assists.
Williams was led by Folan's game-high 25 points, followed by DeMuth's 19 points and game-high 16 rebounds, and Crotty's 16 points and five assists.
Amherst returns to action Tuesday night at 7:30 for a non-league tilt against visiting Wesleyan University.
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