Top-Seeded Jeffs Advance To NESCAC Finals With 86-66 Thrashing Of Bates

February 25, 2006

Third-Seeded Tufts Posts 88-75 Overtime Victory Over Second-Seeded Trinity

AMHERST, MA – The fifth-ranked and top-seeded Amherst College men's basketball team cruised to an 86-66 win over No. 4-seed Bates College on Saturday afternoon to advance to the NESCAC Championship game for the sixth-consecutive year. Amherst is the only team to appear in each conference final since the tournament began in 2001 and claimed the conference crown in 2001, 2002 and 2005. With Saturday's win, Amherst moves to 24-2 and will face third-seeded Tufts University, which advanced to tomorrow's championship game with a 88-75 overtime win over second-seeded Trinity College, Sunday at noon, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line. Bates falls to 20-6 and awaits word of a possible at-large bid to the national tournament.

Amherst placed three players in double digits as senior co-captains John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) and John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) led the way with 21 and 20 points, respectively, and junior forward Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) chipped in with 18. Sophomore floor general Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) just missed posting a double-double as he put away nine points and dished out an incredible eight assists, including six in the second half.

Bates junior forward Rob Stockwell (Temple, NH) netted seven early points as the Bobcats burst out of the gates. The squads exchanged baskets for the first five minutes, with neither team able to build more than a two-point lead, until the 14:41-mark when Casnocha sank a pair from three-point land on consecutive possessions to give Amherst a 17-11 edge. Casnocha sparked a 14-2 Amherst run over the next three minutes, capped by a long three-ball from Olson at 10:25. Bates forced ten Amherst turnovers – including two late steals from junior Zak Ray (Bangor, ME) – to recover from the drought and play even with the Jeffs for the remainder of the half, but the Bobcats were unable to chip away at the Amherst lead. Amherst shot 60.0% (12-for-20), including 54.5% (six-for-11) from behind the arc, in the first stanza, while limiting Bates to just 37.9% (11-for-29) from the field and a grisly one-for-10 three-point shooting, to cruise to a 41-28 halftime advantage.

Ray tried to light the Bates fire after the break, converting a steal-and-score just 28 seconds in to cut the Amherst lead to 10, but Amherst battled back after missing their first four shots of the half to widen the gap to 19, 54-35, as Casnocha and junior Dan O'Shea (Lawrence, MA) converted on Olson helpers for three consecutive scores around the 16-minute mark. Ray was a one-man force in the second half, putting away 26 points and snatching a trio of steals, but the rest of the Bates' squad just couldn't catch the fever, as they coughed up the ball 14 times and were outrebounded 40-31. Ray scored eight straight points to lead the Bobcats on a mini-run down the strech, but any hopes of a comeback were dashed when Jeff sophomore Adolphe Coulibaly (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) hammered a two-fisted jam with authority to put the Jeffs up by 19, 83-64. Bates was unable to muster much offense in the waning minutes and Amherst sailed away with the victory.

Bedford added eight rebounds to his game-high 21 points, while Casnocha had four steals. Ray finished with 30 total points, six rebounds and five steals, and Stockwell added 17 points to go along with eight boards.

NESCAC Postseason Tournament Seedings
Quarterfinals – Saturday, February 18
No. 8 Connecticut College 48 at No. 1 Amherst 74
No. 7 Colby 81 at No. 2 Trinity 84
No. 6 Williams 89 at No. 3 Tufts 101
No. 5 Bowdoin 51 at No. 4 Bates 67

Semifinals – Saturday, February 25 at Amherst College 
No. 4 Bates 66 at No. 1 Amherst 86
No. 3 Tufts 88 vs. No. 2 Trinity 75

Championship – Sunday, February 26 at Amherst College
No. 3 Tufts at No. 1 Amherst (12 p.m.)