|Jeffs Wrap Up Season with 71-68 NCAA Consolation Loss to Illinois Wesleyan|
Jeffs Wrap Up Season with 71-68 NCAA Consolation Loss to Illinois Wesleyan
March 18, 2006
SALEM, VA – The Amherst College men’s basketball team wrapped up the winningest season in school history (28-4) with a narrow 71-68 NCAA Division III Tournament Consolation game loss to Illinois Wesleyan University (25-7) at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va. on Saturday. The concludes the second Final Four appearance for the Jeffs over the last three seasons as they posted a similar fourth-place showing two years ago.
The Titans took advantage of a slow Amherst start, hitting their first four attempts from the floor en route to a 10-0 lead. Junior forward Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) stopped the bleeding, knocking down a three after a loose-ball scramble, but Illinois Wesleyan maintained control, continuing out to a 14-3 edge. Unable to buy a bucket, the Jeffs’ icy-cold shooting continued (one-for-13), but the defense held strong, holding the Titans scoreless for over three minutes.
Amherst junior Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) took another chunk out of the lead with a long-range hit, but Titan senior Jason Fisher (Delavan, IL) responded with a pair of threes to end the Illinois Wesleyan drought and gain a 22-9 advantage at the midway point of the half.
After a short Titan run to make it a 16-point edge, 28-12, Wheeler batted back for the Jeffs, feeding sophomore Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) inside for a layup and then canning his fourth trey of the frame to pull it back to 11, 28-17. The Amherst defense stepped up again, holding Illinois Wesleyan without a point for over three minutes, and without a field foal for 3:56. Meanwhile, the Jeffs continued to chip away at the lead as senior co-captain John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) slipped inside to make it a six-point game, 30-26, with 4:11 left in the session.
The Titans responded with a 10-2 spurt to regain control as senior forward Keelan Amelianovich (Naperville, IL) buried a pair from behind the arc to lead the way to a 44-31 halftime edge. With the exception of Wheeler, the Jeffs had one of their poorest shooting halves of the season, hitting just 26.5 % (nine-for-24) from the field. The bright spot was that seven of their nine buckets came from three-point land, including five by Wheeler en route to 17 points. The Titans on the other hand splashed 55.6% (15-for-27) of their tries from the floor, led by Amelianovich, who cashed in on four-of-five threes for 14 first-half points, while Fisher was a perfect four-of-four shooting and junior Zach Freeman (Bloomington, IL) was three-for-four and five-for-five from the charity stripe to post 11 points apiece.
The cold front subsided in the early going of the second stanza as the Jeffs sunk a trio of treys to quickly hack the lead to seven, 49-42, and force an Illinois Wesleyan timeout at the 16:42-mark. The break led to a 7-0 Titan flurry to stretch their edge back to 14 on another Amelianovich three.
The Jeffs slowly began to chip away at the deficit near 14-minute mark as Olson stuck a mid-range jumper, picked Fisher’s pocket before dropping a dime to Bedford on the break and found McLaughlin for a three. The rally continued as sophomore Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) flipped in a baby hook and Bedford clipped the lead to just three, 59-56, surpassing Jim Rehnquist ’77 for third place on the Amherst all-time scoring list.
The next five minutes were an all-out war, with neither team able to sway the game in their favor. Freeman banged inside for the Titans, while McLaughlin and Bedford piloted the Jeff attack through the stretch. Olson finally sparked Amherst, snatching a steal and converting it into a deep three-ball, and locking up Illinois Wesleyan senior Adam Dauksas (Flossmoor, IL) in the waning seconds of a long defensive stand. Olson continued his one-man attack in the final minute, shaking his defender for a jumper to cut it to one, 69-68, with 48 ticks left on the clock.
Bedford nearly swiped it away from Fisher on the ensuing possession, but Fisher managed to recover and was fouled near the rim. His two free throws made it a 71-68 game, and the Titans made use of their fouls to give, using three straight hacks to take eight seconds off the clock without sending Amherst to the line.
With 15 seconds to play, Amherst called time out and prepared to inbound from under its own bucket. A pair of Jeff three-point tries fell short, and after a missed Titan free throw, Amherst was unable to get a last second shot off.
The Jeffs improved drastically in the second frame, hitting 45.2% (14-for-31) of their shots, and turned the ball over an astonishingly-low seven times. Wheeler finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Bedford added 14 points and four boards and McLaughlin chipped in 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Olson posted nine points and eight assists to finish with an Amherst single-season record 179 assists.
Illinois Wesleyan knocked down nearly 53% (27-for-51) from the floor as Amelianovich led all scorers with 21 points and eight caroms, followed closely by Freeman with 19 points and seven rebounds. Fisher missed just one shot from the floor (five-for-six) to finish with 16 points.
AMHERST IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT: Ninth appearance / 15-11 all-time (10-1 home, 5-10 road)
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