February 17, 2001
WATERVILLE, Maine - Sophomore Amherst College forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) and senior tri-captain Brian Daoust (Dover, MA) combined for 33 of the Jeffs' 66 points, as visiting Amherst forced a five-way tie for first-place atop the NESCAC with a solid 66-49 victory at Colby College, who entered the day in sole possession of first place in the league.
The Jeffs came out of the gates hot, connecting on 16 of their 29 field goal attempts (55.2 percent) in the opening 20 minutes of play. Amherst dominated inside, opening up a 16-point lead late in the first period before a Colby run at the end of the half chopped the visitors' halftime lead to 11 at 37-26.
In the second half, the Jeffs protected their lead with stellar defense, shutting down Colby senior Sam Clark (Woolwich, ME), the NESCAC's leading scorer and the reigning conference player of the week. Clark, who posted 11 points in the first half, managed only one after halftime, thanks to terrific interior defense by Zieja, sophomore forward Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC) and senior tri-captain Abe Sexson (Athens, Greece). Colby would cut no further into the Amherst lead in the second half than nine points, as the Jeffs cruised to the 66-49 victory.
For Amherst, Daoust and Zieja led the way, finishing with 15 and 18 points, respectively, with the latter finishing seven-of-14 from the field, adding seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Fitszimons finished with another dominating game inside, putting up 10 points on five-of-eight shooting, and adding a game-high 13 rebounds and three blocked shots in the winning effort. On the perimeter, sophomore point guard Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH) and senior tri-captain Erik Kelly (Staples, MN) combined for 17 of the Jeffs' remaining 23 points, with Faulkner dishing out a game-high six assists to go along with his nine points.
Colby was led by junior swingman Damien Strahorn (Menlo Park, CA), who finished with 16 points on six-of-nine shooting (including a four-for-seven effort from downtown), but the Mules' starters managed only 15 points on the afternoon, 12 of which came from Clark, as the Jeffs held Colby under 50 points for the first time all season.
With the win, the Jeffs improve to 18-5, 6-3 in the NESCAC, and force a five-way tie atop the 10-team league along with Colby, Trinity College, Wesleyan University and Williams College, with the latter three all posting wins on the final day of the regular-season to force the five-way split.
In preliminary seedings released on Saturday, the Jeffs, because of their conference losses to Trinity and Wesleyan, will be the number-four seed in next week's inaugural seven-team NESCAC tournament, and will host arch-rival Williams, the fifth-seed, in one of three quarterfinals on Tuesday night. The seedings will be confirmed in a conference call on Sunday afternoon, but if they stand, the Jeffs will face the Ephs for the third time this season, after sweeping the regular-season series from Williams with a 73-64 win in Williamstown on January 13, and a 59-57 win in Amherst six days later.
Colby, who falls to 16-8 (6-3 NESCAC) with the loss, received the number-two billet in the unofficial seedings released on Saturday, and will host another of Tuesday night's quarterfinals against an as-yet undetermined opponent.
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