Fifth-Ranked Jeffs Open Season with 98-43 Blowout Win Over Fitchburg St. in Ken Wright '52 Memorial Invitational, Jeffs to Face Endicott in Tournament Championship

November 18, 2005 

AMHERST, MA - The fifth-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team opened its season with a 98-43 blowout victory over visiting Fitchburg State College in the opening round of the Ken Wright '52 Memorial Invitational on Friday night. The Jeffs advance to face Endicott College, who posted a 72-59 comeback victory over Fisher College in the nightcap, in tomorrow's championship game scheduled for 3 p.m.

Amherst got off to a slow start, hitting only three of its first 11 shots and clinging to a narrow 7-3 lead after the first five minutes of play. However, a steal by senior co-captain John Casnocha (San Francisco, CA) which the Jeffs converted into a John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) layup, ignited a 40-6 Amherst run that put the game to bed. The Jeff defense was overpowering, limiting the Falcons to 15 first-half points on five-for-28 shooting, while forcing 12 turnovers as Amherst carried a 51-15 advantage into the break.

The second half brought more of the same as the Jeffs stretched their edge to 47 (63-16) in the first four minutes and Fitchburg wouldn't get any closer the rest of the way. Amherst dove deep into its bench as 15 different players found the scoring column and no player logged more than 17 minutes on the floor.

Bedford led the way, shooting a scorching eight-for-10 from the field for 17 points, and filled out the rest of the stat sheet, notching six rebounds, four assists and five steals in only 15 minutes of work. Junior Dan Wheeler (Bloominton, MN) and sophomore Adolphe Coulibaly (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) joined him in double-figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while sophomores Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) and rookie Marcus Bradley (Latham, NY) chipped in eight apiece. Coulibaly, senior Keith Zalaski (Simsbury, CT) and sophomore Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) tied Bedford for the team lead with four assists each, and junior center Dan O'Shea (Lawrence, MA) grabbed a game-high nine boards. Junior Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) gave an outstanding defensive effort as well, snatching four steals.

Senior Dan Koen (Auburn, MA), sophomore Brian Skiffington (North Adams, MA) and rookie Andrew Vayo (Waterville, ME) paced Fitchburg St. with six points apiece, while Vayo led the Falcons on the boards with six caroms. They shot only 28.3% (15-for-53) from the floor and committed 24 turnovers in the loss.

In the tournament's second game, Endicott overcame a 32-25 halftime deficit to outlast Fisher. The Gulls committed 14 first-half turnovers, while Fisher shot an impressive 41.9% from the field, led by senior Steven Perry (Staten Island, NY) and rookie Stephen Rice (Roxbury, MA), who knocked in nine first-half points each. Endicott broke out of its slump in the second half, quickly grabbing the lead and outscoring the Falcons by 20 points down the stretch to seal the victory.

Junior Nemanja Marinkovic (Belgrade, Serbia) led the way with 19 points and eight rebounds for Endicott, while senior Zach Ellis (Westford, MA) drilled five trifectas en route to 17 points. Fellow senior Matt George (Dover, NH) racked up 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds as well for the Gulls.

Junior Michael Newcombe (Staten Island, NY) gave an outstanding effort for Fisher, posting 16 points, seven steals, six assists and six rebounds. Rookie Dominic Jeter (Brighton, MA) knocked down five threes for the Falcons for 15 points, and Perry and Rice finished with 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Fisher and Fitchburg St. return to face off in tomorrow's consolation game tomorrow at 1 p.m.