January 31, 2006
WALTHAM, MA – Senior co-captain John Bedford (Ridgewood, NJ) and sophomore point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) led the 10th-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team to a hard-fought 82-69 victory at non-conference rival Brandeis University on Tuesday night. Bedford posted 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Olson finished with a career-high 21 points and five assists as the Jeffs won their seventh straight and improved to 17-2.
Olson led the Jeffs early, dropping dimes to senior co-captain John Casnocha and junior center Dan O'Shea (Lawrence, MA) and drilling a deep trifecta to guide the squad to an early 9-4 edge. O'Shea also helped pace Amherst at the start with seven of their first 12 tallies. The Jeffs continued to shoot the lights out, knocking down eight of their first nine attempts from the field, including a pair of three-balls from Bedford, to extend their lead to seven, 20-13. Brandeis rallied, forcing a series of Amherst turnovers, but initially couldn't cut into the lead.
However, the Jeffs did finally cool off a bit and the Judges began to inch their way back. A trio of charity tosses from sophomore Joe Coppens (Rockland, MA), pulled Brandeis within three and then two more from classmate Steve DeLuca (Merrimack, NH) cut the lead to one, 24-23, with just under nine minutes left in the first half.
The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes, as Amherst maintained its slight lead, but was unable to pull away. Brandeis capitalized near the 4:30-mark, taking its first lead of the game on a DeLuca trifecta. The lead switched hands seven times over the next 3:30, with Amherst emerging from the scrum with a three-point advantage at the half, 47-44.
The Jeffs overcame icy shooting to hold their slight advantage early in the second half and they finally stretched the lead out to five, 57-52, on a three-pointer from junior Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, MN) just after the 14:30-mark. However, each time Amherst appeared to start a run, the Judges came up with another big play to keep pace. After Amherst junior Tim McLaughlin (Chatham, NJ) gave the Jeffs a six-point edge with a crafty runner, Brandeis point guard Kwame Graves-Fulgham (Amherst, MA) came up with five straight points to pull back within one, 59-58 at the 12-minute mark.
After two minutes of scoreless play, the Judges took their first lead of the second half on a floater from sophomore guard Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia). Bedford regained the Amherst advantage with an 18-footer on the next possession, and a huge block from Wheeler transitioned into a pull-up jumper from Olson as the Jeffs took back control. Back-to-back threes from Wheeler and McLaughlin stretched Amherst's lead to 69-62, forcing a Brandeis timeout with just under seven minutes to play.
Two more idle minutes passed, but this time it was the Jeffs to end the drought, as Olson knocked down a turn-around jumper in the lane to give Amherst its largest lead of the game, 71-62. The gap would be shortlived, as DeLuca responded with an old-fashioned three-point play, cutting it back to six with four minutes left.
Amherst's defense set the tone the rest of the way, allowing only one field goal throughout the remainder of regulation. Meanwhile, Bedford and Olson cashed in on tough shot after tough shot, stretching the lead inch by inch and securing the victory.
Wheeler and McLaughlin joined Bedford and Olson in double-figures with 14 and 12, respectively, while Wheeler added five boards and a trio of blocks.
DeLuca led all scorers with 25 points and five rebounds. Coppens finished with 19 points and eight boards, while Rexhepi added 10 points and six rebounds as Brandeis fell to 10-8 on the year.
Amherst returns to action Friday at 8 p.m. at NESCAC and Little Three archrival Williams College.