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Amherst College > Athletics > Men's Basketball > Men's Hoops to Face Williams in NESCAC Qtrs.
Men's Hoops to Host Williams in Tuesday's NESCAC Qtrs.

February 19, 2001

NESCAC Tournament Quarterfinals
#5 Williams College (18-6) at #4 Men's Basketball (18-5), LeFrak Gymnasium, 7:30 p.m.

Adam Harper '04
Adam Harper '04 made
this key free throw down
the stretch to help seal the Jeffs'
59-57 win over Williams on Jan. 19
AMHERST, Mass. - It's deja vu all over again for the Amherst and Williams College men's basketball teams, who will meet for the third time this season in Tuesday night's New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament quarterfinals. The Jeffs, who swept the regular-season series from their arch-rivals with a 73-64 win in Williamstown on January 13 and a 59-57 victory six days later in Amherst, are the fourth seed in the first-ever NESCAC Tournament, and will host fifth-seeded Williams in one of three first-round games on Tuesday.

Leading the offense for Amherst (18-5) all season has been the duo of sophomore forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) and senior tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA). In the two teams' first meeting, Daoust scored 16 of the Jeffs' 35 first-half points, including seven straight points as part of a 9-0 Amherst run that helped the Jeffs to a 28-24 lead, eventually taking a 35-31 edge into the intermission. Senior tri-captain Abe Sexson (Athens, Greece) scored seven straight points midway through the second half to extend Amherst's lead to 14, 54-40, before Williams rallied, cutting the Amherst lead to eight, 60-52, with 2:28 to play. On the Jeffs' ensuing possession, Daoust hit a running jumper with the shot clock winding down to put the Jeffs back up by 10, before he combined with Zieja and senior tri-captain Erik Kelly (Staples, MN) to hit 11 of 14 free-throw attempts in the final minute, sealing the 73-64 win.

In the return trip six days later, the two teams struggled to an ugly 22-22 halftime tie, before a big second-half run by Williams gave the Ephs a 43-32 lead with 9:36 remaining. From there, Zieja and first-year guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) combined to bring the Jeffs back into the game, combining for nine points as part of an 18-7 Amherst surge that eventually knotted the game at 50 on a jumper from Kelly at the four-minute-mark. Harper's three-pointer with 2:34 left put the Jeffs up 53-52, before three late free-throws from Daoust helped ice the 59-57 final.

For the season, Zieja has been Amherst's most potent offensive threat, averaging a team-best 18.0 points per contest. Zieja's nine rebounds per game is second on the team to classmate Pat Fitszimons (Durham, NC), while Daoust has been the Jeffs' biggest weapon from outside, averaging 16 points per game, including a 62-164 effort from downtown. Fitszimons has been a steadily-improving presence inside, posting 9.4 points and 9.3 points per outing, and Harper has come on late in the season to give the Jeffs a potent scoring threat off the bench.

For Williams, senior co-captain Andrew Conley (Wakefield, MA) and sophomore forward Drew DeMuth (Carlisle, PA) are the two players averaging in double-figures, posting 12.5 and 11.6 points per game, respectively. Sophomore Tim Folan (Kensington, MD) and senior center Manny Benjamin (Harare, Zimbabwe) have been steady forces inside for the Ephs, averaging 9.8 points-per-game each, with DeMuth, senior tri-captain Joe Weiss (Washington, DC) and Benjamin all pulling down over six rebounds per outing. Slick first-year point guard Michael Crotty (Belmont, MA) has given the Ephs a solid ball-handler at the point, dishing out a team-best 123 assists to go along with his 7.7 points per game.

Since their two losses to the Jeffs, the Ephs have been one of New England's hottest teams, posting wins in six straight games, and in nine of their last 10 entering Tuesday's quarterfinal. With their 71-48 win at Middlebury College on Saturday, the Ephs finished the regular season with a 6-3 conference slate, part of a five-way tie atop the NESCAC with top-seeded Trinity College, second-seeded Colby College, third-seeded Wesleyan University and fourth-seeded Amherst. The Jeffs, who knocked off Colby College, 66-49, on Saturday, helped to force the five-way tie with the win, after rebounding from back-to-back conference losses early in February to Trinity and Wesleyan.

Tuesday's game, the third meeting this season between the bitter rivals, is the 177th time the two teams have met, with Williams leading the all-time series 105-71. The Jeffs, however, have won six of the last eight meetings between the two teams, including all four games played in Amherst's LeFrak Gymnasium. This year's senior class of Daoust, Kelly and Sexson has never lost to the Ephs at home, and have won at least a share of all four Little III titles, including the outright trivalry championship this year.

The last time the two teams met more than twice in one season was the 1996-97 season, when the Jeffs and Ephs split their regular-season series before Williams bounced the Jeffs out of the Division III NCAA Tournament with an 86-63 win in Williamstown.

The winners of Tuesday's three quarterfinals advance to Friday's conference semifinals at top-seeded Trinity, with the lowest remaining seed facing the Bantams and the other two semifinalists squaring off against each other. The champion of the NESCAC Tournament receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Tickets for Tuesday night's game are not available in advance, and will be sold at the door for $1 to students with a proper Amherst or Williams ID, and $3 for general admission. Those wishing to arrange media credentials should contact Steve Vladeck, the College's Assistant Sports Information Director, either via e-mail or at (413) 542-3428.