January 14, 2003
MIDDLETOWN, CT - The 12th-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team placed six players in double figures in its final non-league tune-up on Tuesday, a 92-77 win at Little Three rival Wesleyan University (8-5). Andrew Schiel (Wayne, PA) led the way with 20 points, followed by Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) with 17, John Donovan (Holmdel, NJ) and John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) with 14 each and Ray Corrigan (Queens, NY) with 10.
In a game that ebbed and flowed like a wave pool at a water park, the 10-2 Jeffs jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks to a game-opening turnaround "J" by Zieja, the first of two three's in the game by Donovan and a strip and lay-in by senior point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH). Wesleyan came right back, however, with a 7-0 run of its own, capped by a mid-range jumper by the NESCAC's leading scorer, junior Kanem Johnson (New Haven, CT).
Not to be outdone, Amherst answered with a Schiel trifecta and a pretty three-point play by Donovan, who took a bounce pass from Corrigan and was hacked at the bucket, and steadily built a 14-point advantage over the next 14 minutes.
Trailing 38-26 with 5:00 left in the first half, scrappy Wesleyan mounted yet another charge, cutting the deficit to just four with an 8-0 barrage that included five points at the charity stripe, followed by a three-point play by sophomore guard Tim Holland (East Williston, NY).
Zieja took matters into his own hands from there, scoring six of the Jeffs' final eight points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating put-back off a Corrigan miss for a 46-26 Amherst lead at the break.
With the momentum seemingly in Amherst's favor, Wesleyan rallied again after intermission, this time with a 7-0 run on the strength of an NBA three-pointer by junior guard Keala Mills (Lenox, MA), and just like that the lead was back to three points.
After a furious start, the second half morphed into a 5-on-1 matchup of Amherst vs. Johnson. While the Jeffs strung together a series of mini-runs, including an 8-2 burst for a 54-45 cushion with 16:15 remaining, Johnson almost single-handedly kept the Cardinals in the game, scoring 16 of 20 Wesleyan points during an eight-minute stretch in the second half.
The Jeffs let Johnson have his way but shut down the rest of the Cardinals, leading by as many as 13 points down the stretch. For good measure Amherst sealed the win by scoring the game's finals six points, with a pair of Corrigan free throws with 51 seconds left setting the final score at 92-77.
Johnson had a monstrous night, leading all scorers with 26 points and pulling down a game-high 15 caroms. Wesleyan senior Chris Bray (Montague, MA) added a "quiet" 25 points on 7-for-9 shooting, but the Cardinals placed only six players in the scoring column. None, aside from Johnson and Bray, finished with more than five points.
Bedford had his best game for Amherst, matching his career-high with 14 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field, 4-for-4 from behind the arc and dishing out three assists. Schiel was similarly impressive with a trio of three-pointers and eight rebounds to go along with his 20 points. Rookie forward John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench, while Corrigan dished out a game-high six assists. Faulkner, Donovan and junior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) added four assists each.
On a historical note, Zieja upped his career scoring total to 1,436 points on Tuesday, placing him sixth all-time at Amherst, just one point shy of Josh Hammermesh '94. He is now just 114 points shy of Jamal Wilson '97's school record of 1,550 career points.
Amherst opens conference play Friday at 7 p.m. at Colby College, followed by another NESCAC tilt Saturday at 3 p.m. at Bowdoin College.
12th-Ranked Jeffs Win Final Non-League Tune-up, 92-77, at Wesleyan
January 14, 2003