ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Reid Berman '17 scored a career and game-high 28 points, and the Amherst College men's basketball team shot 59.0-percent (36-61) from the floor to cruise to a commanding 91-67 win over The Sage Colleges Friday night in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Division III Championships on the campus of St. John Fisher College.
The Jeffs improve to 21-7 overall and advance to the second round of the tournament for the fifth-straight season. The Gators finish the 2014-15 campaign with a 23-5 record after reaching the NCAA Championships for the first time in program history.
Berman was lights out as he shattered his previous career-high of 11 points. He went 11-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-6 from downtown, while also dishing out a game-high six assists. Eric Conklin '17 has been on a tear lately and finished with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting. In his past two games, he is 18-of-20 from the floor for 37 points. Joining the duo in double-figures were NESCAC Rookie of the Year Johnny McCarthy '18 and Jeff Racy '17 with 11 and 10, respectively. Jacob Nabatoff '17 led the team in rebounding with a game-high nine boards.
Three players scored in double-figures for Sage, led by Skyline Conference Player of the Year Kai Deans. Deans finished with 19 points and five rebounds. Andre Robinson added 12 and Jorrdan McCray scored 10. Melvin Ford recorded a team-high six rebounds.
The first half went back and forth for most of the 20 minutes. The Jeffs opened the game with a lay-up by David George '17 followed by a free throw from McCarthy, but the Gators took a three-point lead shortly after following a jump shot by Deans as they went ahead, 8-5.
After several ties and lead changes, Amherst finally prevailed when a foul shot from George broke a 19-19 tie to give the Jeffs the lead, and they would never look back. At the 3-minute mark, Conklin tipped in a missed three-pointer to give the Purple & White a 39-30 lead. They would eventually head into the locker room with a nine-point advantage as neither team could score in the final 1:45 of play. The Jeffs led 43-34 at the break, as Berman led all scorers with 12 on 5-of-6 shooting.
The second half was all Amherst as the Purple & White took their first double-digit lead of the game at the 17:52 mark following a jumper by Berman. Shortly after, Nabatoff extended the lead to 16 with a trey as the Jeffs took a 58-42 lead.
Sage cut the deficit to single digits with 8:24 remaining in regulation, but Amherst quickly retaliated. Minutes later, leading by 12, Amherst went on an 11-0 run capped off by a three-point play by Berman to put the game out of reach. The sophomore scored 16 points in the second half, including nine consecutive in a span of 1:12, en route to the 24-point win.
Amherst hit 10 three-pointers as a team and finished 41.7-percent (10-24) from downtown. Sage went 37.7-percent (23-61) from the floor and were just 1-of-9 (11.1-percent) from beyond the arc. The Jeffs held a commanding 45-25 edge in rebounding, and held a 13-6 advantage in assists. Their bench outscored the Gators, 33-14.
The Jeffs await the winner of Friday's second game between No. 18 Worcester Polytechnic Institute and No. 20 St. John Fisher College. Saturday's second round matchup is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.