Men’s basketball advances in NESCAC tournament, prepare for Tufts Jumbos

It will be onwards to the land of the defectors this weekend for men’s basketball (24-1, 8-1 in the NESCAC).

The Ephs, seeded second in the NESCAC tournament due to a loss last month to the top-seed Lord Jeffs, will travel to Amherst for a semifinal match-up on Saturday against the third-seed Tufts Jumbos (12-12, 5-4), with the winner playing either Amherst or Wesleyan the next day for the NESCAC crown and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Tufts has a talented squad that has shown flashes of brilliance this year. The highlight of the season thus far has been an 83-66 home drubbing of Amherst on Jan. 31. The Jumbos couldn’t get much of anything going against the Ephs when they played 10 days ago in the Purple Valley; the Ephs easily won 76-56, despite playing a sloppy game.

Tufts is led by senior Mike McGlynn, who is averaging 17.1 points per game this year, though he managed a measly one point against the Ephs. Sophomore center Craig Coupe has a double-double going on the season, with 13.8 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per contest.

As for the Jeffs-Cardinals contest, Amherst has emerged victorious in both meetings between the two teams so far this season. After traveling to Wesleyan and blowing the Cardinals out 92-77, the Jeffs pulled out a win at home in their final regular season game, 81-72.

Amherst center Pat Fitzsimmons, who was injured for the first match-up between the Ephs and Jeffs this year, scored his 1,000th career point last week on a rim-rattling alley-oop dunk.

In Saturday afternoon’s NESCAC quarterfinal, Williams ended an overmatched Bobcat team’s season with an 85-69 victory. Williams had dominated Bates a week earlier in regular season play, and many anticipated the Ephs would put the Bobcats away early. That was not quite the case, as Bates played a tough first half, leading for most of the 20 minutes.

It appeared the Bobcats would get the last shot of the half as they held the ball down by one while time ran off the clock. Bates drove to the basket slightly early, however, and after the Bobcats’ shot missed, Williams collected the rebound with slightly more than five seconds left on the clock.

Tim Folan ’03 pushed the ball up court and hit a fall-away three as the buzzer sounded to give the Ephs a four-point lead at the half, despite their lethargic play for most of the first.

“I was surprised at how much time I had,” Folan said. “There wasn’t really much to it, I just made the shot. I think it helped us gain some momentum going into the half.”

Folan finished the day with 21 points on 6-of-11 from the field, including hitting four shots from behind the three-point arc, and collected nine rebounds.

“When he’s rolling, it doesn’t matter much what he does,” Head Coach Dave Paulsen said. “He can make shots even as he’s falling on his [butt].”

A fiery halftime speech from Paulsen put the Ephs in a different mindset at the start of the second half; they exploded out of the locker room to go on a 28-9 run.

“We just talked about picking up the intensity and moving the ball better,” Paulsen said of his halftime talk. Folan described the talk as one of the better ones of the year.

Chuck Abba ’04 and Jaris Cole ’05 got things going for the Ephs, hitting consecutive threes. Cole hit two from downtown on the day and finished with 14 points, five assists and an impressive six steals.

The Ephs also did a good job containing Bates forward C.J. Neely. After posting 14 points in the first half, Neely was kept silent for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Though he would finish with a game-high 22 points, the final eight came after the outcome was all but assured.

Brian Gerrity and Angelo Salvaggio threw down 13 points apiece for Bates with no other Bobcat finding more than six.

Mike Crotty ’04 dished out five assists to break the Eph single-season mark for assists for the third consecutive season. His new mark is 185 and he will surely add to that total over the remainder of the season. Crotty, the team’s scoring leader on the season, also had 15 points in the effort.

Drew DeMuth ’03 pulled down 11 boards on the afternoon to put him in third place on the Eph all-time rebounding list with 693.

Earlier in the week, the Ephs defeated Union 67-62 to give them their 23rd victory of the regular season – also setting a Williams all-time mark. Folan had 17 points on the night.

The Ephs, currently ranked fifth in Div. III nationwide and first in scoring margin (25.1), field goal defense (36.6%) and rebound margin (15.9), will tip-off against Tufts on Saturday at 4 p.m. The NESCAC final will be played on Sunday at noon. All games are being held at Amherst.

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