Brian Baskauskas '09
Sophomore sensation Brian Baskauskas racked up game and career-highs of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Jeffs Need OT to Overcome 13-Point Second-Half Deficit

By Alex Kantor

January 12, 2007

MEDFORD, MA – The second-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team needed overtime to escape from a NESCAC match-up against rival Tufts University this evening. Amherst overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to tie the game as regulation ended, and pulled out a 96-92 overtime win on a pair of junior Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) free throws.

The unranked Jumbos of Tufts University shot a blazing 61% from the field and 64% from three-point range in the first half of action, putting heavy pressure on the Jeffs, who shot an uncharacteristically low 29% from beyond the arc to open the game. The poor shooting by Amherst left the Jeffs trailing 43-37 heading into the locker room.

Amherst relied on some of its big guns in the second half, including clutch performances by Olson and senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN). Olson finished the night with 24 points and dished out six assists, while Wheeler poured in 22 points and handed out four assists of his own. Perhaps the only player on the Amherst bench to outshine both the perennial superstars was sophomore sensation Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA).

Baskauskas was lights out from the field, shooting 10-12 including a pair of three-pointers, en route to a game- and career-high 25 points. He also pulled down a game- and career-high 11 rebounds for his first collegiate double-double. Baskauskas helped out on the defensive end as well, blocking a shot and recording two steals.

The three big guns for Amherst helped the Lord Jeffs to battle back in the second frame from a 56-43 deficit to within two points a number of times midway through the second half. With seven minutes remaining, Tufts seemed as though it might pull away from the Jeffs again, stretching the lead to nine points on a David Shepard lay-up. The Shepard score left Amherst trailing 76-67 before the Jeffs rattled off six straight points.

As time ran down in regulation, Tufts’ Jake Weitzen extended the Jumbos’ lead back to four with 2:19 showing on the clock. Junior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) nailed a short-range shot to bring Amherst within a bucket at 1:08. Amherst elected to foul Shepard after the Jones score, which proved to be the correct decision, as Shepard promptly missed both free throws to leave Amherst down only two points with the ball and less than a minute remaining in regulation.

Baskauskas corralled the second Shepard missed free throw and then hit the game-tying lay-up on the other end to tie the game with 19.8 seconds on the clock. On the final Jumbo possession of regulation, Shepard missed a go-ahead jumper, only to have Baskauskas grab the loose ball and feed a streaking Olson down court. Olson missed an off-balanced lay-in as regulation ended with the score tied.

Wheeler knocked down a three-pointer just six seconds into the overtime period, and Amherst never looked back, pulling ahead by as many as five points. A last minute stand by Tufts tied the game at 91, but Amherst sealed the win by knocking down its free-throws after the clock forced the Jumbos into fouling after every score. The win is the third straight overtime victory in the Amherst-Tufts rivalry.

The road ahead for the Jeffs will get no easier as they travel north this evening to Maine, returning to action Saturday for a conference match-up with the twelfth-ranked Bates College Bobcats at 3 p.m.