Andrew Olson '08
Photo by Charlie Quigg '09
Andrew Olson (right) drives by Stevens' Floyd Morris (left) in Friday night's NCAA Sectional game. Olson poured in a game-high 17 points and dished out a game-high 13 assists

Amherst Advances to NCAA Sectional Finals with 97-74 Win Over Stevens

By Alex Kantor

March 9, 2007

Rhode Island College Advances to NCAA Sectional Finals with 75-73 Win Over Keene State

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College men’s basketball team is one win away from a second consecutive trip to Salem, VA and back-to-back Final Fours after a 97-74 win over visiting Stevens Institute of Technology. In the earlier Sectional Semifinal Rhode Island College completed a come-from-behind win over their conference rival Keene State, to advance to tomorrow night’s Sectional Final against Amherst. The two teams squared off on Jan. 30 at R.I.C., with Amherst winning that match-up 62-48.

The Stevens Ducks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after an opening turnover, a lead which they would hold for only 0:17 seconds. Amherst quickly snatched command with a pair of transition lay-ups and would never trail again. The two teams traded buckets for a few minutes, but after a three-pointer from junior point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) at the 15:18 mark, Amherst had already built an 8 point lead.

The Amherst squad fed off the crowd of a raucous Lord Jeff Nation this evening, and would hold a double-digit lead for almost the rest of the game. First-half highlights include a three-quarter court alley-oop from Olson to classmate Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY), who finished off the pinpoint pass with an emphatic reverse slam.

The Lord Jeffs shot 54% from the field in the effort this evening, including a number of hot scoring streaks throughout the game. Around the 8-minute mark of the first half, Amherst rattled off a 10-4 run, capped by a left-handed dunk from junior Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI).

While Amherst’s junior class was vital in the win tonight, the Class of 2007 would not go unnoticed in their last go around. Senior quad-captains Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) and Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) combined for 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Olson capped an impressive first half with a long three pointer at the buzzer to take a 48-34 lead into the locker room. Stevens would come out of the gate in the second half and make an early statement as center Michael Collins (Bronx, NY) threw down a powerful dunk for the first points of the second stanza.

After trading buckets for the next few possessions, Amherst regained control and pushed their lead above 20 points at the 16:35 mark, from which point the game would never be in question again. The second half included a number of trademark no look passes from Olson, who finished the game with a team-high 17 points, while dishing out an eye-popping 13 assists.

Hopkins finished the night with 15 points, on 67% shooting from the floor, while knocking down 7-of-8 from the line. The 6’10” center was one of the keys to the Amherst win this evening, because each time the Ducks would collapse on him in the low-post, Hopkins was able to find an open shooter on the perimeter for an easy jumper.

With all the fancy passes, clutch three-pointers and crowd-pleasing dunks from Amherst on the night to remember, nothing will fade from memory slower than the return of two of Amherst’s brightest stars. The Jeffs commanding win gave Head Coach David Hixon ’75 the chance to bring in juniors Adolphe Coulibaly (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) and Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) in the final minutes. Both players entered to standing ovations and their names being chanted by the crowd.

With the win, Amherst advances to the Sectional Final tomorrow at 7 p.m. against the aforementioned Rhode Island College squad. Tickets will be on sale tomorrow when the doors open at 5 p.m.