MIDDLEBURY, Vermont – The final three games of the Amherst College men's basketball regular season may be the toughest stretch on the schedule, but the Mammoths have won each of the first two road tests this weekend and now control their own destiny for the top-seed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) standings after a 97-93 come-from-behind win over Middlebury on Saturday afternoon.
No. 19 Amherst (20-3, 7-2 NESCAC) can secure the top seed for the second straight year with a win at Hamilton on Tuesday, a game that was supposed to be played earlier in the season but was postponed due to snow. The rest of the NESCAC has finished their regular season, and Middlebury will wait for their playoff matchup with a record of 18-6 (7-3 NESCAC).
The Mammoths tallied the final five points in a game in which they trailed for much of the second half, at times by as much as 12 points (83-71).
From that score, Amherst produced a 12-2 spurt over the next 3:34, cutting it to 85-83 on a three from Fru Che '21 with 4:15 remaining. The visitors continued to whittle away at the Panther advantage, gaining a 92-91 edge on a three by Grant Robinson '21 with 53 seconds left.
A pair of free throws gave Middlebury a 93-92 on the ensuing possession, before a jumper by Robinson put the Mammoths ahead 94-93 with 25 ticks remaining. The Panthers worked the clock down and Jack Farrell's 15-foot jumper hit the front rim. Eric McCord tipped the ball, but it fell off and Amherst converted four straight free throws to clinch the road victory.
The first half featured 10 ties and eight lead changes. Middlebury gained its largest lead of the opening stanza at 39-34 on a three-point field goal from Matt Folger with 2:00 left. The Mammoths finished the half on a 7-2 run, including a three by Devonn Allen '22 as the buzzer sounded to send the game into the half tied at 41-41.
Out of the break, the hosts rattled off a 15-5 run spanning 4:11 of action, grabbing a 56-46 advantage on a three from Folger. The Mammoths gradually chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to 68-64 on a three from Garrett Day '21 with 11:41 left. The Panthers answered with 15 of the game's next 22 points, taking their largest lead of the contest at 83-71 on a fast-break layup from Farrell.
With the win, the Mammoths collect their 22nd 20-win season under Head Coach Dave Hixon. More importantly, they earn the head-to-head tiebreaker over Middlebury should the two finish with the same conference record.
Amherst ended the contest with six players in double figures, led by Robinson's 20 points and a team-best four assists. Eric Sellew '20 had 19 points, seven boards and a pair of blocks, while Che tallied 15 points and seven rebounds. C.J. Bachmann '19 scored 14 off the Mammoth bench, while Allen had 11 points and a game-high three steals.
Farrell led five Panthers in double figures with 22 points, while Folger added 16 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocked shots. Folger moves into a fourth-place tie on the career blocked shots list with Mike Waggett's '82 mark of 158. Max Bosco and McCord each had 12 points, while Perry DeLorenzo added 10 points off the bench on 4-4 shooting from the floor. Alex Sobel finished with a career-best six blocked shots to go along with six points.
The Mammoths finished with a 40-29 rebounding advantage and a 26-11 edge in second-chance points. Middlebury connected on 53.8 percent (35-65) of its shots from the floor, while the Mammoths made 47.9 percent (34-71) of their attempts.