Men's & Women's Hoop Teams Primed for Little III Opener at Williams|
January 11, 2001
AMHERST, Mass. - With the opening night of New England Small College Athletic Conference play one week away, the Amherst College men's and women's basketball teams turn their attention towards their arch-rivals this weekend, with Saturday night's doubleheader at Williams College's Chandler Gymnasium opening a stretch of three consecutive Little III match-ups. Both of Amherst's basketball teams have jumped out to terrific starts, but that all is thrown out the window for the basketball installment of Division III's oldest rivalry.
Game One - Women's Basketball (10-2) at Williams (6-5), Chandler Gymnasium, 6:00 p.m.
The opener of Saturday's twin-bill features one of Amherst's biggest surprises of the 2000-01 season-the 10-2 women's basketball team. The Jeffs, with only two upperclassmen, have used a stellar inside/outside game to match their best-ever season start, led by first-year phenom Shannon Russell (Shrewsbury, MA), the squad's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Russell, the reigning Division III New England Rookie of the Week, set a school record with seven three-pointers in the Jeffs' 71-44 rout of Coast Guard, and has averaged three long-range bombs per game to lead the Amherst offense.
|First-year Shannon Russell|
leads the Amherst attack
with a 13.8 ppg average
Though no other Amherst players average in double-figures, all five of the starters average 7.2 points per outing or more, including sophomore forward Sarah Walker (W. Hartford, CT), who is posting a team-best 10.2 rebounds per game to go along with her eight points per contest. Walker's frontcourt-mate, first-year Sarah Bergman (Shaftsbury, VT), has shown flashes of brilliance, including a 21-point, 12-rebound day against Framingham State College on January 6, and is putting up 9.5 points and 9.3 boards per game. Russell's backcourt partner, sophomore Sara Bozorg (Amherst, MA), has been a steady presence at point guard, handing out a NESCAC-best 6.3 assists per game to go along with her 8.2 points-per-game average.
The staple of the Jeffs' success, however, has been their defense. Amherst has held eight of its 12 opponents to 50 points or less, and only Framingham managed more than 60 points against the Jeffs. Amherst's size inside and speed outside has held opponents to a 30.7-percent performance from the field and a 19.1-percent effort from behind the three-point line. After giving up only 24 points in a 26-point win at Smith College on Tuesday night-the second-fewest points allowed by an Amherst team ever-the Jeffs' defense was on display again Thursday, as the squad held Babson College, the number-one team in New England, to its worst offensive performance of the season. The Beavers, who entered the game averaging just under 70 points per outing, managed only 46 points, shooting 13-53 from the field (24.5 percent) in Amherst's convincing 77-46 victory, the 100th career win for Amherst Head Coach Billy McBride.
Williams, on the other hand, has been led by stellar offensive play through its first 11 games, with three different regulars-led by senior Co-captain Liz Tilley (Queens, NY)-averaging in double-figures. Tilley scored a career-high 30 points in the Ephs' 67-59 win over Babson on Sunday, earning NESCAC Player of the Week honors, and is also handing out just over five assists per outing at the top of the Williams attack. Joining her in the backcourt is sophomore sensation Kate Stumpo (Walpole, MA), scoring at a 12.5 points-per-game clip. Though the Ephs' frontcourt was depleted by graduation, sophomore Abi Jackson (Jamaica Plain, MA) has taken over in the middle, averaging 11 points and over nine rebounds per outing, along with newcomer Bridget McDonough (Holliston, MA), who has given the Ephs a solid second option in the post, netting seven points per contest. On the season, the Ephs have averaged just under 69 points per game, despite a bumpy first 11 games.
Williams opened the year with a 100-31 annihilation of Southern Vermont College, before dropping three of four contests, heading into the New Year at .500 with a 4-4 record. Jackson posted 18 points and 11 rebounds in a 78-55 win over WPI on January 6 before Tilley's heroics lifted Williams past Babson, but the Pride of Springfield College, who knocked off Amherst, 53-50, in the championship game of the Naismith Classic on January 3, were also too much for Williams, knocking the Ephs off 61-55 on Wednesday.
Saturday's game, which is not a conference game for the purposes of NESCAC standings-the second meeting, in Amherst on January 19, is the conference match-up-will be the 47th meeting all-time between the two teams, with Williams holding the edge, including wins in eight of the last 10 contests. One of the two Amherst wins came last year, however, as the Jeffs clinched their first outright Little III title since 1988-89, thanks to a split with Williams, a sweep of Wesleyan University, and a Wesleyan split with Williams. The Jeffs, however, have won only one game in Chandler Gymnasium since 1990, their 57-54 win in January of 1998.
Game Two - Men's Basketball (7-1) at Williams (8-2), Chandler Gymnasium, 8:00 p.m.
The 175th all-time meeting between the Amherst and Williams men's basketball teams features, as usual, two of New England's top teams, including the NESCAC's two representatives in the 2000 NCAA Division III tournament, but also features two of the region's hottest squads. The Jeffs, after dropping a 118-111 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Clark University in their second game of the season, have run off six straight wins, including impressive back-to-back wins over Averett College of Virginia and Western New England College in their two games since the break.
|Brian Daoust is Amherst's|
chief long-range threat
Leading the Amherst offense is the duo of senior Tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA), and sophomore forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA). Zieja, who has led the Jeffs in rebounding in all-but one of their eight games, is averaging a double-double for the season, leading the team with an 18.1 points-per-game scoring pace, and grabbing 10.4 rebounds per contest. The sophomore is shooting 52.0 percent from the field, and has been Amherst's most consistent offensive weapon, scoring in double-figures in seven of the Jeffs' eight games.
Daoust, recently named a D3football.com All-American for his role in leading the Amherst gridiron squad to a 7-1 record and its first win over Williams in 14 years, is right behind Zieja, netting just over 17 points per contest, including a stellar 28-57 (49.1 percent) performance from downtown. With Daoust's conversion to more of a shooting guard, sophomore Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) has taken over the ball-handling duties, and is dishing out 6.6 assists per game, second in the NESCAC, including a pair of 12-assist efforts. Senior Tri-captain Erik Kelly (Staples, MN) has been a solid contributor from outside, especially of late, and has gotten his scoring average up to 10.5 points per game after an uncharacteristically-slow start.
Off the bench, the Jeffs have a pair of weapons in the frontcourt, including senior Tri-captain Abe Sexson (Athens, Greece) and sophomore Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC), who posted a 19-point, 15-rebound effort-both career-highs-in Amherst's 94-80 win over Averett. In the backcourt, silky first-year guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) has been the only bench-man to see considerable time, and has made the most of it, giving the Jeffs another slashing guard, along with Faulkner, to open up the middle.
For Williams, a crop of veterans has helped one of New England's most-storied Division III programs to another stellar start, led by senior Co-captain Andrew Conley (Wakefield, MA). The 6'2" guard has averaged 17 points per game, including a 28-61 performance (45.9 percent) from downtown, shooting 50.5 percent from the field overall. Conley has led the Ephs in scoring in six of the squad's 10 games, including a career-high 33 points in an 88-81 loss to Adrian College of Michigan at the Addidas Desert Shootout in Las Vegas. Unshakable first-year Mike Crotty (Belmont, MA) joins Conley in the backcourt, adding 7.3 points and 5.0 assists per outing to an offense that averages 73.2 points per game.
Inside, the Ephs have been led by surprising sophomore Drew DeMuth (Carlisle, PA), the other Williams regular averaging in double-figures at 13.3 points per game, who has also pulled down over seven boards per game, including a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double against Shenandoah College in Las Vegas. DeMuth-and Williams-received a huge boost earlier this week, when senior center Manny Benjamin (Harare, Zimbabwe) returned from a pre-season knee-injury to contribute 15 points in 18 minutes in Williams' 76-69 victory over Wesleyan University in the Little III opener for both teams.
All-time, Williams holds a 105-69 lead over Amherst, including a win in their last meeting-a 62-59 final at Chandler Gymnasium last January. Amherst, however, has split the last ten contests with the Ephs, including wins in three of the teams' last four meetings.
As with the women, the men's game does not count towards NESCAC standings, with only the meeting in Amherst on January 19-the opening night of conference play-figuring in seeding for the inaugural NESCAC basketball tournament.
Three other Amherst teams will be in Williamstown on Saturday, including the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, who face a dual-meet against the Ephs at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Muir/Samuelson Pool, and the women's squash team, which has won its first two matches of the 2000-01 season, in action at the Williams Invitational.
Schedule for Saturday, January 13, 2001 at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts
All day - Women's Squash (2-0) at the Williams Invitational, The Simon Squash Center
1:00 p.m. - Women's Swimming (6-0) at Williams (3-0), Muir/Samuelson Pool
4:00 p.m. - Men's Swimming (5-0) at Williams (3-0), Muir/Samuelson Pool
6:00 p.m. - Women's Basketball (10-2) at Williams (6-5), Chandler Gymnasium
8:00 p.m. - Men's Basketball (7-1) at Williams (8-2), Chandler Gymnasium