AMHERST, Mass. – No. 8 Amherst College's second half rally falls short as Wesleyan University held on for a hard-fought, 73-72 overtime victory in Tuesday evening's Little III men's basketball game at LeFrak Gymnasium.
With the loss, Amherst moves to 16-5 overall, while Wesleyan improves to 17-5 on the season. The Purple & White return to action, Friday, Feb. 10 at No. 13 Middlebury College at 7 p.m. in Middlebury, Vt.
A back-and-forth first half saw the sides exchange five leads with neither team owning more than a seven-point lead as Wesleyan held a slim, 30-29 lead after 20 minutes of action. Kevin O'Brien scored nine points for the Cardinals who shot 40.6% from the field in the first half, while Johnny McCarthy '18 netted seven points for Amherst which shot 36.7% from the floor.
In the second half, Wesleyan scored 13 unanswered points over the first 7:53 as Harry Rafferty knocked down two treys, while Nathan Krill added a triple of his own to help the Cardinals stake a 43-29 lead before Amherst's Eric Conklin '17 muscled in a layup to give the Purple & White their first points of the second half.
Trailing 47-31 with 11:01 on the clock, Michael Riopel '18 connected for a three-pointer, and the Purple & White went on a 13-0 run of their own as he finished the stretch with a three-point play pull the hosts to within three at 47-44. Less than a minute later, Jayde Dawson '18 canned a trey to shrink the deficit to one (48-47). With 4:50 on the clock, Reid Berman '17 swished a pair of free throws to tie the game at 53-53.
Wesleyan responded and extended its lead back to five when Joseph Kuo powered in a dunk at the 1:42 mark to make it 62-57, but Riopel delivered a clutch trey, and then hit two of three from the free throw line to even the game at 62-62. Dawson then hit the front end of two free throws to give the Purple & White a 63-62 edge before a pair of free throws by Berman with five ticks on the clock increased the lead to 65-62. The Cardinals forced overtime when Jordan Bonner netted a sensational triple from the corner as time expired to knot the game at 65-65.
In overtime, Rafferty broke the stalemate with a trey and Jordan Sears picked up an offensive rebound and put it back to help give Wesleyan a 70-66 lead. McCarthy pulled Amherst to within one when he drained a trey to make it 70-69 with 2:45 remaining in the extra frame. O'Brien then converted the first of two foul shots, before McCarthy answered with a free throw of his own. With 1:30 on the clock, Dawson drove into the lane and scored to give the Purple & White a 72-71 edge, before Bonner made a pair of critical free throws to give the Cardinals a 73-72 lead with 45 seconds left.
From there, Wesleyan missed four foul shots, and Amherst missed two free throws and a triple as the Cardinals held on for the hard-fought victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Dawson finished with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting, while McCarthy added 11 points and eight rebounds. Off the bench, Riopel poured in 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting including a 3-for-4 effort from three-point range, while David George '17 added eight points and a game-best 11 boards to go along with five blocked shots.
- Berman dished out five assists, while Eric Sellew '20 and Conklin finished with six points each in reserve in the losing effort.
- Wesleyan received a game-high 19-point effort from Bonner, while O'Brien followed with 18 points and was 8-for-10 from the charity stripe. Rafferty collected 15 points on the strength of four treys, while Kuo and Krill chipped in eight points each.
- Rafferty finished with six assists, while Bonner led the Cardinals with 10 rebounds.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Wesleyan, who shared the Little III title with Amherst a year ago, clinched its first outright crown since 1990-91.
- Amherst also saw its 32-game home winning streak snapped, and has now lost four of the past five meetings to its archrival, including a 73-59 NESCAC setback earlier this season.
- Dawson, who netted 17 points, is just two points shy of becoming the 30th player in program history to score 1,000 points for Amherst.