Super-Soph Ray Corrigan averages 3.5 assists off the bench.
11th-Ranked Men's Hoops Set for Marquee Matchup with No. 5 Rochester in Friday's NCAA Division III Sectionals, Hosted by Williams
March 13, 2003
Amherst College Lord Jeffs (23-4) vs. the University of Rochester Yellowjackets (23-3)
NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Sectionals (Round of 16)
Friday, March 14, 2003 * Williams College Lasell Gymnasium * Williamstown, MA * 6 p.m.
Friday’s game will be audio Webcast live on the Internet by Amherst College radio station WAMH. Visit the Amherst College Athletics Website (www.amherst.edu/sports) for details. Rochester, NY radio station WYSL (1040 AM) will also Webcast the game at www.wysl1040.com. WAMH will not broadcast Saturday’s sectional championship game.
Amherst and Rochester have met several times through the years, but not since the 1969-70 season - a 64-57 Rochester win. Amherst’s last series victory came during the 1963-64 campaign (a 64-59 Lord Jeff victory). The Jeffs and Yellowjackets first locked horns during the 1915-16 season, a 25-24 Amherst win. The two teams haven’t played each other during head coach David Hixon’s 26-season tenure.
At 23-4 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 third-ranked Williams, 74-70, in the championship game. The Jeffs then drew a first-round bye in “The Big Dance” and steamrolled visiting Southern Vermont 84-60 in the second round behind junior sharpshooter Adam Harper’s (Washington, DC) game-high 21 points. Amherst is led by Jostens Trophy National Player of the Year finalist Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA), who was recently named the NESCAC Player of the Year and First-Team All-NESCAC. Currently second in the NESCAC in free throw percentage (.815), fourth in scoring (17.6 ppg) and eighth in field goal percentage (.514), Zieja is Amherst’s all-time leading scorer with 1,687 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 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Fitzsimons is the school’s all-time leader with 224 career blocked shots, is 12th on the college’s career scoring list with 1,043 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 third-best 4.67 assists on a nightly basis. Collectively, Zieja, Fitzsimons and Faulkner have led the Jeffs to a school-record 86 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. This season’s 23 wins are also a school record. Joining Faulkner in the backcourt are junior guards Harper 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 (3.70). He’s also 10th in the conference in free throw percentage (.771), 13th in blocks (0.67 bpg) and 19th in scoring (12.7 ppg) and set an Amherst single-game record with 11 steals in a 74-57 win over visiting WPI. With 100 steals on the season, Harper is just three 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 55 trifectas in 131 attempts, good for 42.0%, which is seventh 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 12.3 points per game on the strength of 31 three-pointers, while classmate Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) is the conference’s sixth leading assist man at 3.54 helpers per game. First-year phenom John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) has made a strong contribution as well, shooting 48.9% (22-for-47) from three-point range route to 5.8 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, CA) 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.
AMHERST PROBABLE STARTERS
G - #44 Ryan Faulkner (3.4 ppg / 4.7 apg)
G - #5 Adam Harper (12.7 ppg / 4.9 rpg / 100 steals)
G - #12 John Donovan (9.8 ppg / 55 three-pointers)
F - #34 Steve Zieja (17.6 ppg / 6.2 rpg / .514 fg% / .815 ft%)
C - #42 Pat Fitzsimons (12.9 ppg / 8.1 rpg / .703 fg% / 67 blocks)
F - #41 Andrew Schiel (12.3 ppg / 4.0 rpg / 31 three-pointers)
G - #22 John Bedford (5.8 ppg / 23 three-pointers)
G - #21 Ray Corrigan (3.9 ppg / 92 assists)
At 23-3, ranked fifth nationally and coming off their third NCAA Final Four appearance (where they lost to Elizabethtown 93-83 in overtime), Rochester is no stranger to postseason play. In fact, the Yellowjackets have been to the NCAA Tournament 12 times, including six trips to the Round of 16, four trips to the national quarterfinals, three trips to the national semifinals, two trips to the national championship game and one national championship (1990). Rochester enters sectional play on a 10-game winning streak, highlighted by last weekend’s 73-62 second-round win over visiting Western Connecticut State. They also posted a huge 83-82 overtime win over UAA rival Washington University - which entered the game undefeated at 23-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation - on February 23rd. For three straight years Rochester had just one senior on the team. This year, there are four, and seven of the 13 players on the roster are upperclassmen. Moreover, 12 veterans return from a club that went 24-6, 12-2 in the UAA, and reached the NCAA Division III Final Four last season. The Yellowjackets are led in the frontcourt by the last two UAA Rookies of the Year: 6-7 junior Andy Larkin and 6-6 sophomore Seth Hauben. Hauben leads the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg), with Larkin not far behind at 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Hauben tallied career-highs of 39 points and 18 boards in last year’s national semifinals, which, at the time, was a tournament record. Senior Jeff Joss (6-3) is a dominating force in the frontcourt. He was a First Team All-UAA pick last year and is a two-time Honorable Mention All-American. Joss averages 12.7 points on the strength of a team-high 78 three-pointers. Senior point guard Tim Sweeney returns for his fourth year as a regular. Sweeney had a career-best 114 assists last year, made 42 threes and averaged 6.9 ppg. He’s followed that up this season with 93 assists and a 7.2-point scoring average. Sophomore guard Gabe Perez started all five NCAA games last year, reached double figures in two of them and was second in assists to Sweeney. He’s started all 26 games in 2002-03 and averages 8.8 points.
ROCHESTER PROBABLE STARTERS
G - #20 Jeff Joss (12.7 ppg / 78 three-pointers / 43 assists)
G - #32 Gabe Perez (8.8 ppg / 89 assists /
G - #12 Tim Sweeney (7.2 ppg / 93 assists / 44 three-pointers)
F - #21 Seth Hauben (13.3 ppg / 9.5 rpg / 46 assists)
F - #40 Andy Larkin (12.5 ppg / 7.3 rpg / 38 assists)
#41 Brian Jones (8.3 ppg / 4.4 rpg)
#44 Ross Briggs (3.8 ppg)
#52 Mikedo Wisseh (2.7 ppg)
TEAM STATISTICAL COMPARISONS
Scoring (82.0 ppg)
Opponent Scoring (65.5 ppg)
Rebounding (37.8 rpg)
Opponent Rebounding 935.8 rpg)
Field Goal % (.473 / 814-for-1720)
Opponent Field Goal % (.420 / 650-for-1548)
Free Throw % (.697 / 389-for-558)
Opponent Free Throw % (.679 / 332-for-489)
Three-Pt. % (.360 / 198-for-550)
Opponent Three-Pt. % (.339 / 137-for-404)
Scoring (73.2 ppg)
Opponent Scoring (57.8 ppg)
Rebounding (37.8 rpg)
Opponent Rebounding (27.3 rpg)
Field Goal % (.479 / 713-for-1487)
Opponent Field Goal % (.406 / 554-for-1365)
Free Throw % (.728 / 329-for-452)
Opponent Free Throw % (.696 / 265-for-381)
Three-Pt. % (.405 / 147-for-363)
Opponent Three-Pt. % (.308 / 130-for-422)
AMHERST LAST TIME OUT
Thanks to a 21-5 explosion at the start of the second half, 11th-ranked Amherst routed visiting Southern Vermont 84-60 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Junior guard Adam Harper led the way with a game-high 21 points, three steals and five rebounds, while sophomore sharpshooter Andrew Schiel racked up 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including a scorching 3-for-4 showing from the three-point arc. Harper canned five three-pointers as well, as the Jeffs improved to 23-4, setting a new school record for wins in a season. Senior forward Steve Zieja joined Harper and Schiel in double figures with 17 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Senior center Pat Fitzsimons added game-highs of 10 rebounds and three blocks, while senior point guard Ryan Faulkner chipped in with a game-high 11 assists.
ROCHESTER LAST TIME OUT
Seth Hauben and Andy Larkin combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds to lead Rochester past Western Connecticut State 73-62 in the NCAA second round. Hauben finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Larkin added 14 points and 10 boards. Jeff Joss had 13 points and Gabe Perez scored 11 as the Yellowjackets placed four players in double figures.
AMHERST HEAD COACH DAVE HIXON
Entering his 26th season, head coach Dave Hixon '75 has molded the Amherst men's basketball program into one of the finest in the nation. As the winningest coach in school history, the 14th winningest active Division III coach in the nation (by total wins) and the 39th winningest coach in NCAA Division III history (by winning percentage, as listed in the 2002 NCAA Record Book), Hixon has guided the Jeffs to a 439-208 overall record (entering sectional play), six NCAA Tournaments, 13 ECAC Tournaments and ten Little Three titles, while posting a 8-1 record and two league titles (2001 & 2002) in NESCAC Tournament play. During his tenure, the Jeffs have continually excelled in the postseason, claiming four ECAC Championships (including consecutive titles in 1995 and 1996) and advancing at least to the NCAA second round in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 after a Cinderella run to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 1994. In 2001, Hixon was honored as the NESCAC Coach of the Year after leading the Jeffs to a 22-6 overall mark (the first of two straight 22-win seasons), tying the school record for single-season victories. This year’s Jeffs have surpassed that with a 23-4 mark.
ROCHESTER HEAD COACH MIKE NEER
Entering his 27th season, head coach Mike Neer has registered 403 wins in 600 career games at Rochester, with a national title and three NCAA Final Four appearances to his credit. Neer's career record is 403-273 and he is the winningest coach in school history. The National Association of Basketball Coaches selected Neer as the NABC Kodak Division III Coach of the Year when he guided Rochester to the 1990 Division III National Championship. He has taken the Yellowjackets to eight NCAA tournaments: 1981, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003. The Yellowjackets' record in NCAA Tournament play is 17-7, among the highest in NCAA Division III history. Neer is a 1970 graduate of Washington & Lee University with a B.A. in sociology where he earned All- Virginia Small College honors. He had a summertime tryout with the NBA's Cincinnati Royals and received a commission as an officer in the US Navy after playing professionally in Italy. From 1972-76, Neer coached the plebe (freshman) team at the U.S. Naval Academy to a 41-18 record.
AMHERST IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Sixth appearance / 7-5 all-time (5-0 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… beat visiting Southern Vermont, 84-60, in second round)