Men’s hoops suffers 1st loss

Amherst (10-2) sent men’s basketball (12-1) home with its first loss of the season on Saturday. After Williams fell behind early in the first half, Amherst held tight to its lead, taking the contest 87-80. In last year’s NESCAC championship at Amherst, the Ephs took the crown from the Jeffs. With the win on Saturday, the Jeffs, the defending national champions, reclaimed their home court.

Amherst’s starting lineup was tall and talented. The 6’10’’ center was joined by two 6’7’’ forwards, a 6’6’’ guard and All-American point guard Andrew Olson (5’10’’).

At the start, the Jeffs took the tip and the first basket. Co-captain Chris Rose ’08 put the Ephs on the scoreboard with a shot from behind the arc. The teams tracked each other until a Joe Geoghegan ’10 lay up off a co-captain Chris Shalvoy ’08 assist set the Ephs up 10-9. Then the Jeffs launched an attack.

Amherst forward Brandon Jones scored two off a jumper for the Jeffs. On the Ephs’ next possession, Olson stole the ball and took it back down the court for a lay up. On a turnover a minute later, Jones fired again for three. After three more Williams turnovers, Amherst was leading 23-10 with 10 minutes left in the half.

“We had a few too many break downs in the first half,” said Head Coach Dave Paulsen. “We kind of dug ourselves a hole.”

Rose added the first points after the drought. Fouled by Mike Holsey, he made two at the line and followed with a lay up on the Ephs’ next possession. The Ephs started moving again, but the Jeffs never stopped. Williams finished the half down 41-28.

It was a dismal first half for Williams. The team shot just 28.6 percent from the field compared to Amherst’s 50 percent.

“Their defense caused us to play on our heels for most of the game,” Shalvoy said. “They were bigger than us and we allowed that to make us play soft.”

Williams returned to the court with new drive in the second half. Shalvoy shot for three off a Blake Schultz ’10 assist, putting the Ephs within 10. Schultz and Matt Weisbrot ’08 made significant contributions in the ensuing minutes, but with 10 minutes left on the clock, the Ephs were down 68-46. The Jeffs weren’t letting up.

“We attacked the whole second half,” Paulsen said, but Amherst counterattacked and had a great run in the middle.

Williams staged a comeback in the final stretch when Weisbrot started sending in baskets left and right, adding 17 points to the Ephs’ count by the end of the game. Tommas Golia ’09 and Geoghegan both scored to narrow the gap. Then a steal and a lay up from Golia further increased the Ephs’ momentum.

Down by 11 with two minutes on the clock, the Ephs started forcing fouls. The strategy worked in part, though the Jeffs kept making their shots at the line. Shalvoy brought the Ephs to within six with a shot from downtown. Golia followed suit with a trey of his own to bring the score to 79-75. In the final minute, the Jeffs connected on free throws and the Ephs missed their chances. Shalvoy launched a long shot for three to close out the game, but Amherst won decisively, 87-80.

Although the Ephs improved in the second half, shooting 48.8 percent from the field for 40.6 percent overall, the Jeffs had the edge. They shot 52 percent from the field in the second half and 50.8 percent overall. Jones and starting forward Fletcher Walters led the Jeffs with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

Weisbrot finished as Williams’ leading scorer with 17. He was followed by Shalvoy (16 points, six assists, one rebound), Schultz (13 points, two assists and eight rebounds) and Rose (12 points, 2 assists, 10 rebounds). Geoghegan got into foul trouble and therefore played only 20 minutes, but brought in 10 points and five rebounds.

It was a disheartening loss for the Ephs. “We didn’t play with toughness like we had talked about wanting to do all week,” Shalvoy said. “We played 37 minutes of the game without wanting to take it to them, and when you play a team like Amherst, you have to bring the hit to them every second of the game.”

The Saturday loss ended Williams’ undefeated run. The team counted its 12th victory in the final of the Williams Invitational on Jan. 6. Williams beat Nichols (3-8), 83-66, to take the title after routing Mitchell (0-11), 71-46, in the first round the day before.

Williams hosted Lasell last night, winning 75-65. Complete results from last night’s game came in too late to be included in this edition.

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