Sophomore forward John Casnocha logged nine quality minutes in his return from an an eight-game layoff.
Donovan, Jeffs Bomb Wesleyan in NESCAC Quarterfinals
February 21, 2004
AMHERST, MA - Behind 21 points from senior sharpshooter John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ), the third-seeded Amherst College men’s basketball team set a conference record for points in a NESCAC Tournament game with a convincing 97-65 first-round win over visiting No. 6 seed Wesleyan University on Saturday. Amherst, 23-2 overall and ranked fourth nationally, advances to next Saturday’s NESCAC Tournament semifinals at top-seeded Williams College, where they’ll take on the No. 2 seed, 10th-ranked Trinity College. Trinity advanced with a 72-57 victory over seventh-seeded Tufts University.
Wesleyan had success with its 3-2 zone in last week’s narrow 80-77 home loss to Amherst, but the Jeffs filleted the zone on Saturday, taking an early 6-2 lead on consecutive three-pointers by senior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) before stretching the gap to 16-6 with what turned out to be a devastating 10-0 flurry. Amherst’s 10-point lead morphed into an 18-point cushion 11 minutes later courtesy of a backbreaking 9-0 barrage, keyed by a Donovan three and a long-range bomb from sophomore guard John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ).
“They played that zone the last eight minutes down at Wesleyan and it created some problems for us,” said Amherst head coach Dave Hixon. “We hadn’t really practiced much against it, but we worked on it this week and put in a few new wrinkles. I thought we got some easy looks, which was great.”
Bedford helped put the game out of reach with five offensive rebounds and 11 points in the first half, while Harper tormented Wesleyan on the defensive end, snagging four steals before halftime.
Things only got worse for Wesleyan in the second half as the Jeffs opened with a 7-0 run and never looked back, leading by as many as 34 points down the stretch. Amherst’s substitutes dominated the waning minutes as rookie Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) punctuated the victory with a pair of late threes and senior center Don Quinn (Princeton, NJ) ended the game with an offensive putback for a three-point play.
The Jeffs placed four players in double figures including Donovan. Bedford paced the reserves with 19 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Harper and junior point guard Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) chipped in with 10 points apiece. Corrigan added a game-high five assists and four steals and shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor. Amherst outrebounded Wesleyan 51-36, including a 21-13 margin on the offensive glass. They also drained 15 three-pointers and finished 12-for-15 from the charity stripe.
Amherst sophomore John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) donned a facemask and saw his first action since being sidelined with a head injury on January 24th. He logged nine quality minutes, finishing with two points, three boards and an assist.
“It’s big having Casnocha back,” said Hixon. “He’s not ready yet, but he has all of this week to get ready. I think he’s going to really help us.”
Wesleyan senior forward Kanem Johnson (New Haven, CT) poured in a game-high 26 points in defeat. Senior guard Keala Mills (Lenox, MA), who entered the game tied with Johnson for the conference scoring lead at 22.6 points per game, finished with just five points on 1-for-10 shooting and didn’t score at all in the first half. Mills torched Amherst for 34 and 32 points, respectively, in their previous two meetings but was shut down by Harper on Saturday. The Cardinals finished their season at 12-11, falling to Amherst for the third time this season.
Amherst is now 9-1 all-time in NESCAC Tournament play, winning consecutive postseason championships in 2000-01 and 2001-02 before falling in last year’s title game. The top seed has never won the NESCAC Tournament.
Box Score / Play-by-Play
2004 NESCAC MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Williams 74 - No. 8 Middlebury 52
No. 2 Trinity 72 - No. 7 Tufts 57
No. 3 Amherst 97 - No. 6 Wesleyan 65
No. 5 Bates at No. 4 Bowdoin (4:00 pm)
Semifinals - Sat, Feb. 28 (@ Williams)
No. 3 Amherst vs. No. 2 Trinity (2 p.m.)
No. 1 Williams vs. Bates/Bowdoin winner (4 p.m.)
Championship - Sun, Feb. 29 (@ Williams)
Semifinal winners (Noon)