Kevin Hopkins '08
Photo by Mark Yarchoan '07
Junior center Kevin Hopkins came through in the clutch, scoring a career-high 24 points in the NCAA Turnament's Second Round.

Amherst Advances to NCAA Sectionals with 87-70 Win Over Widener

By Justin Long

March 3, 2007

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College men’s basketball team escaped the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament unharmed, as the Lord Jeffs took down visiting Widener University 87-70 to advance to the “Round of 16.” Amherst junior center Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY) stole the show, leading all scorers with 24 points in just 22 minutes of action.

Amherst sophomore Brian Baskauskas (Palo Alto, CA) opened the game with a lay-up to put the Jeffs on the board, and followed up with a block on the defensive end to give his team some early momentum. Senior quad-captain Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) buried a three to move the lead to 5-0, but Widener senior tri-captain Malcolm Thomas (Baltimore, MD) scored the next four points of the game to cut his team’s deficit to one point.

The game saw three lead changes over the next three minutes, when Widener senior tri-captain Essien Ford (Baltimore, MD) tied the game at 15-15 with a jumper. Amherst senior quad-captain Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) knocked down a three-pointer on the following possession to spark a 13-0 run, forcing the visiting Pride to call a timeout with 8:21 remaining in the half.

Widener came out of the timeout with some hot shooting, going on a quick 6-0 run to cut the deficit to seven points. A Hopkins three-point play brought the Amherst lead back to 12 points, but the Pride responded once again with a run of their own, outscoring the Jeffs 9-0 over the next two-and-a-half minutes to trail by only three points with 2:27 on the clock.

Not to lose their momentum, the Jeffs closed out the half on an 8-0 run to take a 43-32 lead into the locker room. Amherst and Widener put in nearly identical shooting performances in the first half, with the Jeffs connecting on 54.5% of their shots and the Pride knocking down 54.2% of theirs. Ford led all scorers with 13 points in the opening frame, while Baskauskas led Amherst with 12.

Widener was not able to put together another significant run, as Amherst never led by fewer than 17 points after the first six minutes of the second half and led by as many as 25 points late in the game. The Pride were unable to find a solution for Hopkins, who went 6-for-7 in the second half to drop 15 points. The 6’10 center teamed up with junior point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) for some classic style points, with Olson twice setting his big man up for an authoritative two-handed dunk, sending the Amherst faithful into an uproar as usual.

On the other end, the Jeffs could not seem to find a solution for Thomas, who went 5-for-9 for 12 second-half points, as Thomas and Ford each finished with 20 points on the night to lead the Pride. Senior Terry Smith (York, PA) added eight points and eight rebounds for Widener, who finishes the season at 15-13.

Hopkins pulled down six rebounds to go along with his game- and career-high 24 points, while Olson dished out 12 assists to go along with his eight points. Wheeler finished with 18 points, seven boards and four assists in a solid all-around performance. Baskauskas added 14 points, five rebounds and a trio of assists, and McLaughlin rounded out the scorers in double figures, totaling 10 points and four assists.

Olson's seventh assist of the night was the 499th of his career, making him the all-time assist leader at Amherst College.

The Lord Jeffs (26-2) move on to the NCAA Sectionals, where they will face Stevens Institute of Technology (23-6), who defeated Worcester Polytechnic University in the opening round and host Ramapo College in the second round. Game time is set for Friday, March 9 at 8 p.m.