Sophomore guard John Bedford notched a team-high 18 points, including a 7-for-7 showing from the free throw line in the second half.
Eighth-Ranked Jeffs Survive Regular-Season Finale, Down Wesleyan 80-77
February 14, 2004
MIDDLETOWN, CT - The eighth-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team saw a 24-point halftime lead cut to just one point in the final minute but hung on for a narrow 80-77 victory at NESCAC and Little Three rival Wesleyan University in its regular-season finale at on Saturday. With the win, the Jeffs (22-2/7-2 NESCAC) secured the No. 3 seed in the NESCAC Postseason Championship Tournament, where they’ll host a familiar opponent, sixth-seeded Wesleyan, in a first-round game next Saturday (Feb. 21) at 3 p.m.
Amherst used a 20-2 run over a five-minute span late in the first half to take a commanding 53-29 lead at the break. Amherst connected on five three-pointers during the barrage, including two each by juniors Andrew Schiel and Russell Lee and another by senior sharpshooter John Donovan.
Down but not out, Wesleyan scored the first 15 points of the second half, holding Amherst scoreless for a six-and-a-half minute span. Wesleyan senior Kanem Johnson scored nine points during that stretch and 27 in the game, upping his school-record total to 1,666 career points.
Amherst regained its composure and pushed the margin back to 17 points, 67-50, with 10:00 remaining, but Wesleyan used clutch three-point shooting to spark a furious comeback. Senior Keala Mills, who led all scorers with 32 points, hit one of the aforementioned clutch trifectas to cut the lead to 67-57. A three-pointer by junior Tim Holland then pulled Wesleyan within three, 71-68, with 2:30 to go.
Donovan countered with a three-pointer for Amherst and the teams traded free throws to enter the final minute with a 76-72 count. An ensuing bucket by Amherst senior Tim Jones, answered by yet another Mills three-pointer, moved the score to 78-75 with 24 seconds remaining. Wesleyan forced a turnover with 19 seconds to go and cut the lead to just one point on an offensive putback by first-year Blake Curry with four seconds left in regulation. Forced to foul, Wesleyan put Amherst sophomore John Bedford on the free throw line. Bedford calmly drained both charity tosses, capping a 7-for-7 showing from the free throw line in the second half, to set the final score at 80-77.
Amherst placed five players in double figures, led by Bedford’s 18 points. Schiel chipped in with 15 points while Donovan and Jones added 13 and 12, respectively.
Mills and Johnson combined for 59 of Wesleyan’s 80 points on the afternoon.
Next Saturday’s Amherst-Wesleyan matchup will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. Amherst downed visiting Wesleyan 108-81 back on January 13.
2004 NESCAC MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SEEDING
Quarterfinals - Saturday, February 21 at Higher Seeds (3:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted)
No. 8 Middlebury at No. 1 Williams
No. 7 Tufts at No. 2 Trinity
No. 6 Wesleyan at No. 3 Amherst
No. 5 Bates at No. 4 Bowdoin (4:00 pm)
Semifinals - Saturday, February 28 at highest remaining seed (2 p.m. and 4 p.m.)
Highest remaining seed vs. lowest remaining seed
Remaining quarterfinal winners
Championship - Sunday, February 29 at 12:00 p.m.