|Amherst Topples Williams, 64-45|
Amherst Puts in Strong Second Half to Topple Williams, 64-45
By Alex Kantor
January 6, 2007
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The third-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team upended Little Three and NESCAC archrival Williams College this afternoon to earn their eleventh win of the season, and remain undefeated.
Amherst opened the game looking to their superstar from last year’s final four squad, senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) who refused to disappoint, hitting a baseline jumper with a Williams defender in his face.
Amherst starting center Dan O’Shea (Lawrence, MA) was whistled for two quick fouls, forcing head coach Dave Hixon to bring junior Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) off the bench earlier than normal. Hopkins responded to the call, grabbing a key offensive rebound, and then forcing his man into a turnover on the other end only one possession before finishing a fast break to give Amherst a five point lead.
Back-to-back Lord Jeff turnovers led to a 5-0 Williams run, tying the score at ten, before Amherst was able to score another bucket. Williams grabbed their first lead of the game at 15-14, when Eph senior tri-captain Brian Nelson (Holden, MA) hit a beautiful three pointer coming off a screen. Hopkins answered back for Amherst inside to give the Jeffs the lead again, before an emphatic block set-up point guard Andrew Olson’s (San Diego, CA) first points of the game.
With five and half minutes remaining in the first half, Amherst senior quad-captain Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) was forced from the game with a cut above his eye, forcing Amherst to run with a smaller line-up, pairing Olson in the backcourt with senior Mike Salerno (Shrewsbury, MA).
The smaller line-up would seemingly benefit a Williams squad which had been struggling with the 6’10” Hopkins, but it was during the run-and-gun final minutes of the first half that Amherst was able to extend their lead to five. Williams buried a shot in the last seconds of the half, to close the lead to 24-21 heading into the break.
Amherst jumped out of the gate to start the second half, running their lead to nine points before Williams could get a score on the board at the free throw line. Just as a Kevin Snyder three gave Williams life, Wheeler began to hit from the floor again.
Picking up right where he left off, Hopkins entered the game for an injured O’Shea and within minutes was blocking shots and laying in reverse lay-ups. With eight minutes left in regulation, Amherst reached their largest lead of the game as McLaughlin drained a deep three. Williams head coach David Paulsen was forced to call a timeout as Amherst was on a 21-7 run in the second half.
The Williams faithful could really sense that the game was slowly getting out of reach as a Hopkins breakaway ended in a high-powered dunk. A Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) jump hook pushed the Amherst lead over twenty for the first time on the day at 49-28.
Salerno helped to silence the Williams student body with relentless effort on defense and an acrobatic tip in on the offensive glass. Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) chipped in on the offensive end in the final quarter of the game, knocking down a nice three pointer from the corner and finishing a beautiful back door cut with a left handed lay-in.
As the final minutes of the game ticked away, coach Hixon was able to get some valuable experience in this fiery rivalry for some of the younger players on the roster. Amherst closes out their non-conference schedule this Tuesday evening when they face Wesleyan University at Amherst.
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