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Amherst College > Athletics > Men's Basketball > Jeffs Upend Springfield in NCAA 2nd Rd.
Dan Wheeler '07
White-hot junior Dan Wheeler torches Springfield for two of his career-high 19 points.

White-Hot Wheeler Wheels Second-Ranked Jeffs Past Springfield in NCAA Second Round

March 5, 2005

AMHERST, MA - Sophomore sharpshooter Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) came off the bench for a career-high 19 points on scorching 6-for-6 shooting, including a 3-for-3 showing from three-point range, to lead second-ranked Amherst College to an 81-68 win over visiting local rival Springfield College in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Saturday night. With the win, the Jeffs, who improve to 26-1 on the season and 7-0 all-time in home NCAA Tournament games, advance to the NCAA Sectionals (Round of 16) for the fourth consecutive year, where they’ll face the University of Rochester (22-4) at a site to be determined.

Senior NESCAC Player of the Year Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) and junior First-Team All-NESCAC selection John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) joined Wheeler in double figures with 16 and 17 points respectively, but it was Amherst’s reserves that saved the day. With Schiel and NESCAC Rookie of the Year Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) in foul trouble for much of the game - Olson would eventually foul out with just over two minutes left in regulation - junior Keith Zalaski (Simsbury, CT) and sophomores Dan O’Shea (Lawrence, MA), Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) and Wheeler picked up the slack off the bench to the tune of 29 points on combined 9-for-12 shooting. Zalaski came up particularly big, playing a career-high 21 minutes and dishing out four assists in relief of Olson.

“We have a lot of guys who would play big minutes on most other NESCAC teams, but they have seniors and juniors ahead of them here,” said Schiel. “We have the utmost confidence in them when they get in the game, that they’ll play at the same level that we’ve been playing at. For them, it’s just a matter of getting an opportunity, and a lot of guys stepped up off the bench tonight.”

Keith Zalaski '06
Junior Keith Zalaski holds off Springfield's Jamaal Gibbs.
Wheeler’s play, which defied hyperbole, was simply otherworldly. With four starters on the bench and the Jeffs holding a slim 52-48 advantage midway through the second half, Wheeler poured in 10 straight Amherst points on a pair of three-pointers, an offensive putback and a jumper from the left wing. His final bucket, a long-range bomb from the top of the key, ignited a 13-0 Amherst barrage from which Springfield would never recover.

“Cas (junior forward John Casnocha) is a great player in front of me, so when I get in, I just want to keep whatever he started going,” said Wheeler. “When I can get something inside and then work inside and out, I usually get into the flow and feel a lot more at ease.”

No one among the Amherst faithful felt at ease over the game’s first five minutes, when upset-minded Springfield drained four of its first five shots - all three-pointers - en route to an early 16-5 edge. Juniors Derek Yvon (E. Longmeadow, MA) and Mike DeCesar (Acton, MA) each connected twice from long range during the run, and the Pride would hold the upper hand until midway through the half. After a much-needed timeout, Amherst regrouped with a 10-0 flurry and eventually claimed a 44-38 halftime lead despite Springfield’s red-hot 68.2% (15-for-22) shooting before the break.

Springfield’s marksmanship would plummet drastically in the second half, however, as Amherst held the Pride without a field goal for a nine-minute stretch en route to 25.7% (9-for-35) shooting in the final session. Meanwhile, the Jeffs sealed the win from the free throw line, hitting nine of their last 12 charity tosses over the final 1:54.

Amherst shot 51.9% (27-for-52) overall and outrebounded Springfield 37-30. Bedford led the way on the boards with a game-high nine caroms. Schiel added seven boards and three blocks.

Yvon paced Springfield with 19 points, while DeCesar added 12 points and six rebounds. The Pride’s season ends at 22-7.

Amherst now moves on to one of four (four-team) sectionals along with Rochester, St. John Fisher College and Potsdam State. The Jeffs hope to host sectional play for the first time in program history, and will await a final decision from the NCAA selection committee.

VIEW PHOTOS from Saturday's win (courtesy of Sam Masinter '04, Amherst Public Affairs)

Box Score/Play-by-Play