Senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler scored a career-high 28 points, bringing his career total to 1,000
Amherst Clinches #1 Seed in NESCAC Tournament;
Wheeler Nets 1000th Career Point
By Justin Long
February 3, 2007
AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College men’s basketball team made its final home game of the regular season count, as the Lord Jeffs clinched a #1 seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament with an 81-56 victory over Little Three rival Wesleyan University. Senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) exploded for 20 second-half points, finishing with a game- and career-high 28 to move his career total to 1,000.
With the scoreboard displaying zeroes for both teams after two-and-a-half minutes of action, it certainly did not look as though there was anything special about Amherst’s final home game of the regular season. Even after senior Dan O’Shea (Lawrence, MA) put his team on the board with a lay-up and capitalized with a free throw to make it a three-point play, Amherst could not find its usual rhythm.
Amherst trailed 12-8 with 11:18 remaining in the half, when four different Jeffs scored in the next five Amherst possessions to take a 16-12 lead. The Cardinals quickly cut their deficit to one point, but were countered by a 7-0 Amherst run that featured some usual fancy play from juniors Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) and Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA). Leading 16-15, Amherst found Hopkins underneath, where he got the fans out of their seats with a two-handed dunk, drawing a foul in the process. Just two minutes later, Olson sent a lob from behind half court that made its way to Hopkins, who finished the ally-oop with another two-handed slam that sent Lord Jeff Nation into an uproar.
The Jeffs’ lead hovered between six and nine points for the next five minutes of action, when junior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) knocked down a three-pointer with just three seconds left on the clock. Amherst looked as though it would take a 33-23 lead into the locker room, but senior co-captain Jared Ashe was fouled in the act of shooting a three at the buzzer, and would connect on two of his free throw attempts to cut his team’s deficit to eight points before halftime.
Despite the game’s slow start, both teams shot exceptionally well in the first half, with the Cardinals finishing at 43.5% and the Jeffs shooting at 46.7%.
With 11:40 remaining in the game, sophomore Gabe Gonzalez-Kreisberg cut Wesleyan’s deficit to just five points with a jumper that Amherst had trouble defending all game. With his team losing momentum, Wheeler took charge and began his march toward the record books. The senior quad-captain knocked down his next six shots, four of which were good for three points, with his sixth three-pointer of the game giving the Jeffs a 75-52 lead, while putting him at an even 1,000 points for his illustrious career.
After Wheeler’s final bucket, which came in the midst of a 31-9 Amherst run, the Amherst crowd gave the seniors a well-deserved standing ovation as they were subbed out with 2:24 left in the game. Each team would score four more points, with Amherst’s final two coming at the hands of a hard drive to the lane by sophomore Mike Holsey (Potomac, MD), who did his best impression of Hopkins and sent the crowd into one final uproar with an authoritative two-handed slam. Amherst controlled the final possession of the game, as Steven Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) was able to hold on to the ball and run out the clock, securing the Jeffs’ 25-point victory.
Wesleyan shot an impressive 45.2% from the floor in the second half, but Wheeler led his team to a 65.6% second-half performance, which included 60% (6-for-10) from long range.
Wheeler shot 58% (11-for-19) from the floor, including 67% (6-for-9) from behind the arc, adding six rebounds, two assists, a block and a pair of steals in a very well-rounded performance. He becomes the 21st player in program history to reach the 1,000 point plateau, making this year’s graduating class the fifth consecutive group to feature a member of the prestigious club.
O’Shea played a solid game in the post, finishing with 11 points and a pair of blocks in just 13 minutes of action. Foul trouble prevented senior Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) from getting as involved as he normally does, but he still contributed five points, three assists and a pair of steals. Mike Salerno (Shrewsbury, MA) was his usual self, as the senior played unselfish hustle basketball en route to three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Hopkins finished with 10 points and four blocks, while Olson finished with a game-high nine assists. Sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) added nine points and four rebounds, while Walters added nine points of his own on 4-of-5 shooting.
Gonzalez-Kreisberg led the Cardinals with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while Robert Kelly added 12 points and Nick Pelletier chipped in with 11. The loss drops Wesleyan to 6-14 (2-5 NESCAC) on the season.
With the win, the Lord Jeffs move to 23-0 (8-0 NESCAC) and will be the top seed in the upcoming NESCAC tournament. Amherst returns to action and concludes its regular season Saturday, Feb. 10 with a NESCAC match-up with Trinity College. Game time is set for 3 p.m. at Trinity.