Dan Wheeler '07
Senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler led the Jeffs with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting

Jeffs End Regular Season with 62-59 Loss to Trinity

By Alex Kantor

February 10, 2007

HARTFORD, CT – The top-ranked Amherst College men’s basketball team closed out its regular season this afternoon on the campus of NESCAC rival Trinity College with a 62-59 loss. The loss is the first of the season for Amherst, as they finish the regular season with a program-best 23-1 record.

The Lord Jeffs fell behind 14-6 just 5 minutes into the first half on back-to-back three-pointers from Bantams Patrick Martin and Kino Clark. Senior quad-captain Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) helped stop the bleeding with a nice block and defensive rebound, which ultimately led to a deep triple from classmate Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, CT).

Spurned on by a strong traveling fan base, in what would be his last regular season game, Wheeler lifted the Jeffs onto his shoulders early, racking up a dozen points by the 10-minute mark.  Bob Cousy Award finalist junior Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) fed classmate Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) for an emphatic dunk to bring the Jeffs within 3 points.

Amherst closed the gap to 19-18 when Hopkins dished out an assist of his own to junior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) for a reverse lay-in, and then blocked a Bantam jumper on the next possession. Wheeler continued his hot shooting, making another jumper to tie the score at 22. The NESCAC’s top teams lived up to the hype, trading baskets over a five minute span, and stood knotted at 24 with 4:45 in the half.

Walters broke the tie with a nice jumper from the elbow off a set inbound play and then a lay-up off a nice back-door cut for a personal 4-0 run. Junior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) pushed the lead to 32-24 when he dropped home back-to-back jumpers in the post.

Amherst held for the last shot of the half, but Olson was unable to convert on a tough fade-away jumper, and the Lord Jeffs took a 32-24 lead to the locker room. Leading Amherst in the first half was Wheeler with 16 points, while Aaron Westbrooks paced Trinity with 5 first-half points.

Trinity opened the second-half scoring with a tear-drop floater from Martin after a long offensive set powered by a pair of Bantam offensive boards. Sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) answered right back hitting the glass on offense before dropping home a silky smooth turn-around jumper.

Bantam Kino Clark shrunk the Amherst lead to five points with a three-pointer, only to have Olson answer back with a long-range deuce. Following an acrobatic three-point play from Martin, Olson drained a three-pointer with the shot clock expiring, and then fed Hopkins for a three-point play of his own on the next trip down.

Trinity closed to within three points, but Walters took an inbound coast-to-coast for a lay-up to stretch the lead back to five, before Hopkins and McLaughlin would help provide some breathing room at 50-41 with 9:50 remaining in regulation.

Senior quad-captain Mike Salerno (Shrewsbury, MA) would infuse the strong traveling Amherst fan base with a series of hustle plays and offensive rebounds. Trinity would not go away, creeping back to four-down on a three-pointer from reigning NESCAC Co-Player of the Week Robert Taylor.

Amherst’s lead slipped to 52-49 on another Clark long-range conversion, as the raucous Bantam faithful made their presence felt. Lord Jeff Nation would not be drown-out as they celebrated a beautiful reverse lay-up from McLaughlin after a perfect back-door cut.

Clark and Martin combined fir a steal before a Taylor jumper deadlocked the score at 56 apiece with just 3:20 showing on the clock. After a McLaughlin free throw, Baskauskas finished another back-door cut to give Amherst a 59-56 lead, only to have Clark nail another three-pointer.

With one minute remaining in regulation, Amherst head coach Dave Hixon ’70 called for a timeout to set up the offense he wanted. Coming out of the huddle, Amherst went to Baskauskas coming off a weak-side screen, where he was fouled going to the hoop. Baskauskas was unable to make a free throw and Trinity called time out with 17.9 left in regulation and 14 second showing on the shot clock.

Trinity’s Martin came through with the biggest shot of his career, nailing a three with 4.7 showing on the clock to take a 62-59 lead. Amherst inbound the ball to Olson with 3.0 seconds remaining after calling  their final timeout, and after a nice pump fake of his defender, the desperation tying three rimmed out.

The loss is the first of the season for Amherst, as they head into the NESCAC tournament with a school best 23-1 mark. The Lord Jeffs still secured the number one seed and will host the conference Tournament with game times and opponents to be determined.