Tim McLaughlin '07
Photo by Jeff Brown
Junior Tim McLaughlin helped key the Amherst second-half comeback on Friday.

Jeffs Suffer 64-60 National Semifinal Loss to Wittenberg

March 17, 2006

SALEM, VA - The Amherst College men’s basketball team suffered a narrow 64-60 loss to Wittenberg University in the NCAA Division III Tournament Final Four on Friday night at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va. The Jeffs fall to 28-3, and move on to play the loser of Friday night’s other National Semifinal matchup between Illinois Wesleyan University and Virginia Wesleyan College tomorrow (Saturday) at 2:30 p.m.

The Jeffs were sloppy early, coughing the ball up on three of their four possessions, but solid defensive play and rebounding kept it close. Five straight points from Wittenberg first-year Gregg Hill (Redford, MI) highlighted a 10-0 run by the Tigers, pushing the lead out to 16-6 midway through the frame. Amherst sophomore Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) ended a five-minute scoring drought for the Jeffs with a three from the wing, and senior co-captain John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) canned a triple of his own to pull back within four, 16-12. However, Wittenberg responded with back-to-back layups to put the advantage back at eight points and force an Amherst timeout.

Amherst sophomore Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) came alive just after the five-minute mark, posting the Jeffs’ final nine points of the half to head into the locker room with just a two point deficit, 25-23. Olson nearly managed to overcome the Jeffs’ 11 first-half turnovers, netting a flawless, four-for-four from the floor en route to 11 points and a pair of assists. Amherst kept Wittenberg at bay on the boards, matching the Tigers with 15 rebounds.

Wittenberg spread out its first-frame damage as senior Daniel Russ (Louisville, KY) posted six points and six boards, Hill and junior Jack Hemenway (Centerville, OH) notched five points apiece and seniors Kenny Brady (Reading, OH) and Dane Borchers (Russia, OH) added four points each.

The two squads battled through the opening minutes of the second session, but Amherst finally got the better of the Tigers as senior co-captain John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) and junior Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) banged consecutive threes to give the Jeffs their first lead of the game, 32-29. Russ answered for Wittenberg, punching home a backdoor dunk and a 17-footer to reknot the count, 33-33. Olson and Tiger junior point guard Pat Denbow (Louisville, KY) traded triples for the third tie of the half, but Wheeler quickly eluded his defender for another slight Amherst edge, 40-38 with 13:56 left to play.

Amherst junior Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) made his presence felt with two straight trifectas to break the fifth deadlock of the half, and proceeded to knock down the second of two charity tosses for a four-point advantage, 45-41, with 11 minutes left on the clock. After three minutes of nearly scoreless ball, Bedford netted his 1,500th career point at the free-throw line, and sophomore Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) followed with an old-fashioned three-point play to make it a 51-43 Amherst advantage with 7:31 to play. A combined four straight three-point possessions by both teams as Russ lifted in an and-one and Brady, Bedford and Casnocha all found their mark from behind the arc to leave Amherst with an eight-point edge, 59-51, with 5:22 on the clock.

Wittenberg steadied the ship, dragging out an 8-0 run over the four minutes, capped by a slashing dunk from Borchers to make it a 59-59 stalemate with 1:45 to play. The Jeffs scoring drought continued on the ensuing possession as the Tigers rejected a pair of Jeff layups. Borchers walked to the other end, regaining the lead with a pair of free throws, and then made it a three-point advantage, 62-59, with just a minute remaining. Goldsmith finally stopped the bleeding, knocking down the first of two free throws, and the Jeffs secured the offensive rebound of the second try to give Amherst another shot at life. Unfortunately the Jeffs, Casnocha’s deep three-point try fell short and Russ converted the tail-end of a pair at the line to seal the win.

Olson finished with 14 points to lead Amherst, while Bedford and Wheeler added nine points apiece. Bedford also had six points and a trio of assists, while Wheeler was credited with four steals.

Russ led all scorers with 26 points and seven rebounds, while Borchers added 15 points and nine boards. The Tigers advance to the National Championship game tomorrow at 5 p.m.

FULL BOX SCORE/PLAY-BY-PLAY

AMHERST IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Ninth appearance / 15-10 all-time (10-1 home, 5-9 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… beat Rochester, 74-68, in Round of 16… fell at Sectional host Williams, 91-75, in National Quarterfinals)
  • 2003-04 (First-round bye… beat visiting Plymouth State, 113-85, in second round… beat New Jersey City, 92-74, in Round of 16… beat Sectional host Franklin & Marshall, 82-70, in National Quarterfinals… fell to Williams, 86-81, in National Semifinals… fell to John Carroll, 96-85, in Championship consolation)
  • 2004-05 (First-round bye… beat Springfield, 81-68, in second round… fell to Rochester, 69-62, in Round of 16)
  • 2005-06 (First-round bye… beat Hamilton, 83-59, in second round… beat Tufts, 90-85 (OT), in Round of 16… beat St. John Fisher, 93-70 in National Quarterfinals… fell to Wittenberg University, 64-40, in National Semifinals…)