Contact: Ben Badua
AMHERST, Mass. - Five Jeffs scored in double figures to lift the eighth-ranked Amherst men's basketball team to a 94-81 victory over regional rival Eastern Connecticut State University at LeFrak Gymnasium. With the win, Amherst improved to 8-2 on the season, while dropping the Warriors to 8-4 overall.
Connecting on eight of his 15 field goal attempts, Connor Green '16 led all scorers with 21 points, while also adding eight rebounds and three blocks. Thanks in part to a 9-for-11 showing from the free throw line, David Kalema '14 finished with 19 points and five assists. Backcourt mate Aaron Toomey '14 turned in another solid all-around game with 18 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Tom Killian '14 added 14 points. Ben Pollack '16, who tied a career-high with eight rebounds, was the only other Jeff in double digits with 12.
Down 22-19 midway through the first half after a Mike Garrow '14 layup, Amherst rattled off an 8-2 run. Toomey got things started with a pair of free throws before a Connor Gach '14 three-pointer put the Jeffs on top. Kevin Leumene '16 then drove the lane for two before Killian buried a triple from the left corner to make it 27-24.
After a Brian Salzillo '14 three tied it, Toomey knifed into the paint for a bucket before Killian knocked down a pair from the charity stripe to stretch the margin to four. The swingman then drained another trey before Salzillo trimmed the deficit to five with a jumper at 2:03. Still holding onto a two-point edge with under a minute to go, Green laid it in for a couple before two Toomey free throws extended the cushion to 40-31 at the intermission.
Garrow opened up the second half scoring with a jumper on ECSU's first possession, but Green came right back down with a three to push the lead back up to 10. Up nine after two Garrow free throws, Amherst pieced together a 9-3 run. Kalema got it rolling with a layup at 16:28 before hitting a three pointer the next time down the floor. Trachone Preston '16 answered with a bucket, but a Toomey layup and a Pollack basket gave the Purple & White a 56-41 advantage.
Down by 16 with less than eight minutes remaining, the Warriors netted seven-straight points. Salzillo kick-started the spurt with an old-fashioned three-point play, before hitting a jumper that made it 75-64. Preston capped off the rally with a layup that brought the visitors back within nine.
Amherst responded with an 8-0 run of its own to go back up by 17. Toomey pulled up for a three at the 5:06 mark to jumpstart the stretch, before ducking into the lane for two more. The next time down the floor, the senior point guard converted a three-point play that staked the home team to a comfortable 83-66 lead with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
Salzillo and Garrow paced the Warriors with 20 points apiece, while Preston added 17 points, five rebounds and four assists. ECSU finished just 30-for-77 (38.9 percent) from the floor, while Amherst connected on 32 of its 56 field goal attempts (57.1 percent), including an 18-for-29 (62.1 percent) clip in the second half.
Despite losing the rebounding battle, 42-33, the Jeffs held a decisive 42-22 edge in points in the paint and 16-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
Amherst returns to action on Friday, Jan. 10 against Hamilton College.