CLINTON, N.Y. – The No. 11 Amherst College men's basketball team battled No. 10 Hamilton College to the final whistle, but Hamilton held serve on their home court, handing the Mammoths an 81-77 defeat in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular season finale on Wednesday evening.
The result means neither Amherst (20-4, 7-3 NESCAC) nor Hamilton (21-3, 7-3 NESCAC) will be the top seed in the NESCAC tournament, which starts this Saturday with the quarterfinals.
Amherst will be the third seed and will host #6 Wesleyan on Saturday at 2:00 PM. Hamilton finishes behind top-seed Middlebury and entertains #7 Colby at 3:00 PM.
Grant Robinson '21 hit a jump shot with forty-four seconds left to give Amherst a one-point lead, but Hamilton hit six straight free-throws to account for all of their scoring in the final minute.
Fru Che '21 scored 18 points, 14 of them in the 2nd half when he shot 5-8 from the floor. He hit a three-pointer with 1:25 to play to pull Amherst back to within a point, at 75-74.
Robinson notched a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, along with a team-high five assists. Amherst's big men, seniors Joe Schneider (14 points) and CJ Bachmann (11 points) were each in double-figures as well.
The game featured six ties and five lead changes, and though Amherst led by double-digits in the first five minutes, neither team could get any more separation as the game tightened up. Schneider had 12 points and Bachmann had nine as Amherst shot 46% in the first half and led 41-34 at the break.
Hamilton scored eleven of the first thirteen points in the second half and got in front on a three-pointer by Tim Doyle with 17:19 left in regulation.
Che hit threes within a minute to keep Amherst within a possession, but Peter Hoffman and Michael Grassey went back to back from long range to give Hamilton a 56-50 lead.
The teams played within a four-point margin until a pair of free-throws by Hoffman at the 3:30 mark gave Hamilton a 73-67 advantage.
Bachmann and Sellew made layups for Amherst, but a jump shot by Kena Gilmour, who led all players with 23 points, put the hosts back ahead by four, 75-71, with 1:37 left.
Hoffman added 18 points and Andrew Groll scored 11 for the Continentals.
Amherst had a 43-37 edge on the glass and a 44-38 advantage in points in the paint. Hamilton got to the foul line 21 times, shooting 81%, while Amherst only attempted eight free throws in the game.