Jeffs Dispatch Fisher in NCAA First Round, 89-76

March 1, 2001

AMHERST, Mass. -- Senior Amherst College tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA) led six Jeffs in double-figures with 16 points, including the 1,000th of his career, to lead the men's basketball team to an 89-76 victory over visiting St. John Fisher College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. First-year guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) had 13 points and a career-high seven steals, and junior Pat Taverna (Whitesboro, NY) added a career-best 12 points on five-of-five shooting to lift the Jeffs to the second round, where they will face Clark University on Saturday in Worcester. Fisher senior Mark Niggli (Rochester, NY) scored 20 of his game-high 22 points in the second half for the Cardinals, who ended their season at 17-9. 

Daoust, who entered the game with 999 career points, didn't wait long to make history, hitting a running lay-up 53 seconds into the contest to give the game its first tie at 2-2. The teams would trade baskets for most of the first 10 minutes, before a three-point-play by Cardinal senior Ben Weihrich (Amherst, NY) put the visitors up by five, 20-15, just inside the nine-minute-mark. 

That would be Fisher's largest lead of the game, however, as Amherst would answer quickly. Taverna hit his first shot of the game, a three-pointer from the wing, two minutes later to cut the Fisher lead to two, and senior tri-captain Erik Kelly (Staples, MN) and Harper turned in back-to-back buckets to give Amherst the lead back at 22-20. After a pair of free throws from Cardinal senior R.J. Fiorelli (Erie, PA), Amherst rolled off nine more points on back-to-back-to-back three-pointers, with sophomore Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) capping the 16-2 run with a bomb of his own just before the three-minute mark. 

Fisher would close the gap to five at halftime, 35-30, thanks in part to a 19-10 rebounding edge in the first period. After the break, both teams came out on fire from the field, with the Cardinals closing to within one at 37-36 on a lay-in from sophomore Alpha White (Fort Ann, NY) 2:21 into the second half. 

From there, the two hot-shooting teams traded buckets past the 12-minute mark, and a pair of free throws from Fisher senior Dan Lutman (Buffalo, NY) cut Amherst's edge to 54-52 with 11:41 remaining. The Jeffs, however, began to pull away, with Harper recording one of his seven steals on the Cardinals' ensuing possession, taking it in for a lay-up to start a 10-2 Amherst surge. 

A lay-up from Niggli just inside the eight-minute mark cut the Jeff lead to six, 64-58, before Amherst rolled off seven straight points, including a three-pointer from Daoust, to open the lead back to 13. Behind Niggli and Fiorelli, the Cardinals stayed close, but a Harper three-pointer from the corner with 1:58 left put the Jeffs ahead 80-68, and Amherst hit seven straight free throws in the next 1:06 to seal the 13-point win. 

The Jeffs, who turned in their best shooting day of the season, finished 32-of-54 from the field (59.3 percent), including a 20-for-31 effort (64.5 percent) after halftime, and an 11-for-19 day from behind the three-point line. The sharp shooting offset one of Amherst's poorest games on the boards all season, as Fisher held a 34-20 edge on the glass, including a game-high nine boards from Fiorelli, who finished with 20 points on the evening. Niggli led all scorers with 22 points, 20 of which came after halftime, as the Cardinals racked up 52 of their 76 points in the paint, hitting on only three of 15 attempts from downtown. For the Jeffs, Harper, Kelly, Taverna, Zieja and sophomore forward Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC) joined Daoust in double-figures, including a team-high eight boards from Zieja. 

With the win, the Jeffs match the 1993-94 squad for the most wins in school history with 22, setting up a rematch with Clark University in Saturday's NCAA Regional Quarterfinals. It was the Cougars who, in a wild 118-111 triple-overtime affair in Amherst on November 30, handed the Jeffs their first loss of the season. Avenging that loss would advance Amherst to the Sweet Sixteen for only the second time in school history. 

Fisher, who received the bulk of their offense from Fiorelli and Niggli, also benefited from a solid 13-point performance on six-of-eight shooting from White, but couldn't survive Amherst's hot shooting, finishing the year with a record of 17-9. 

Tip-off time for Saturday's second round game at Clark is 2:00 p.m.

Game Box Score