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John Bedford '06
Rookie sharpshooter John Bedford is 22-for-44 from three-point range off the bench.

Opponent Set for Saturday Night; Jeffs to Host Southern Vermont in NCAA Tournament Second Round

March 7, 2003

AMHERST, MA - The Amherst College men’s basketball team will host Southern Vermont College in the second round of the Division III NCAA Championship Tournament Saturday at 7 p.m. The Jeffs drew one of 16 first-round byes in the tournament, while Southern Vermont advanced to the second round with Thursday night’s 63-60 home win over Lasell College.

Ticket prices are $4 for adults and $3 for senior citizens, students and children over 5 years old. Doors at LeFrak Gymnasium will open at 5:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast locally, and live on the Internet, by Amherst’s campus radio station, WAMH (89.3 FM). To access the Webcast, visit http://www.amherst.edu/sports shortly before tip-off.

Saturday night’s winner will advance to the NCAA Sectionals (Round of 16) and face either the University of Rochester (22-3), which drew a first-round bye, or Western Connecticut State (20-8), which edged Clark University, 84-82, in a first-round matchup on Thursday. Sectional play will take place on Friday and Saturday, March 14-15, at an on-campus site to be determined. For a complete tournament bracket and updated scores, visit www.NCAAChampionships.com or www.D3hoops.com.

At 22-4 and ranked 11th nationally, Amherst earned an at-large bid to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament after securing the top-seed in the NESCAC Tournament, where it bowed to visiting No. 2 seed Williams, 74-70, in the championship game. The Jeffs are led by Jostens Trophy National Player of the Year finalist Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA), who was named the NESCAC Player of the Year and First-Team All-NESCAC on Tuesday. Currently second in the NESCAC in free throw percentage (.819), fourth in scoring (17.6 ppg) and eighth in field goal percentage (.515), Zieja is Amherst’s all-time leading scorer with 1,670 points (and counting).

His counterpart on the low post is Second-Team All-NESCAC senior center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), Amherst's second-leading scorer and top rebounder at 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Fitzsimons is the school’s all-time leader with 221 career blocked shots, is 13th on the college’s career scoring list with 1,037 points and owns Amherst records for blocks in a game (10 at Lasell on 1/22/02), blocks in a season (76 in 2001-02) and single-season field goal percentage (.664 in 2001-02).

Another senior, point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH), runs the show offensively, dishing out a league fourth-best 4.42 assists on a nightly basis. Collectively, Zieja, Fitzsimons and Faulkner have led the Jeffs to a school-record 85 wins over four seasons, back-to-back NESCAC Championships (in 2001 and 2002) and four straight NCAA Tournament berths - the only Amherst class ever to do so.

Joining Faulkner in the backcourt are junior guards Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ). Harper, the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team all-conference selection, has had a monstrous junior campaign, especially on the defensive end, where he leads the NESCAC and is fourth in the nation in steals per game (3.73). He’s also 11th in the conference in free throw percentage (.759), 13th in blocks (0.69 bpg) and 20th in scoring (12.4 ppg) and set an Amherst single-game record with 11 steals in a 74-57 win over visiting WPI. With 97 steals on the season, Harper is just six shy of the college’s single-season record, set by Keith Poopor in 1995-96.

Donovan averages 9.8 points per game and is the Jeffs’ top three-point threat, nailing a team-high 53 trifectas in 125 attempts, good for 42.4%, which is sixth best in the NESCAC.

One of Amherst's greatest assets, however, is the strength of its reserves. Six-foot-seven sophomore forward Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) brings the added dimensions of height and outside shooting off the bench, averaging 11.9 points per game on the strength of 28 three-pointers, while classmate Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) is the conference’s sixth leading assist man at 3.56 helpers per game. First-year phenom John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) has made a strong contribution as well, shooting an even 50.0% (22-for-44) from three-point range route to 5.9 points per game. Furthermore, junior forward Tim Jones (Richmond, VA) has been an effective presence down low, while first-year swingman John Casnocha (San Francisco) is a tenacious rebounder and a solid perimeter threat. Look for sophomore point guard Russell Lee (Lorton, VA), junior guard Frank Perry (Hartford, CT) and senior slasher Sulaiman Jenkins (New York, NY) to contribute as well.

Southern Vermont - 24-5, ranked fifth in the Northeast and winners of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) - defeated first-round opponent Lasell behind 15 points from junior guard Sean Ezell (Gary, IN), despite shooting just 9-for-21 from the free throw line and 4-for-17 from three-point range. The Mountaineers feature no players from the state of Vermont and their three top scorers are college transfers. Ezell, a transfer from Northern Illinois University, leads the team at 15.2 points per game, followed by Kishwaukee College transfer Cortney Denson (Chicago, IL) at 13.2 ppg and Central Arizona College transfer Lydale Waller (Cedar Rapids, IA) at 12.0 ppg. Southern Vermont has won nine straight and is 1-1 this season against NESCAC opponents, having beaten Middlebury, 87-84, before falling to Williams, 84-55.

    AMHERST IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Sixth appearance / 6-5 all-time (4-0 home, 2-5 road)
  • 1993-94 (Qualified for the NCAA Tournament in its first year of eligibility… drew first-round bye… won at Colby in second round… beat the No. 1 team in the nation, Franklin & Marshall College, which entered the game with only one loss, in the Round of 16… Fell to eventual national champion Lebanon Valley in the national quarterfinals)
  • 1996-97 (Beat visiting Colby, 83-60, in first round… fell at Williams, 86-63, in second round)
  • 1999-00 (Beat visiting WNEC, 79-77, in first round… fell at Salem State, 81-75, in second round)
  • 2000-01 (Beat visiting St. John Fisher, 89-76, in first round… fell at Clark, 89-76, in second round)
  • 2001-02 (First-round bye… beat visiting Western Connecticut State, 82-77, in second round… fell at SUNY Brockport, 69-64, in Round of 16)
  • 2002-03 (First-round bye… hosts Southern Vermont in second round)