MEDFORD, Mass. – Connor Green '16 scored a game-high 25 points as the 15th-ranked Amherst College men's basketball team posted an 86-73 victory over No. 20 Tufts University in Saturday evening's NCAA Division III Championship Sectional Final at Cousens Gymnasium in Medford, Mass.
With the win, Amherst (26-5) advances to it third NCAA Final Four in the last four years, and seventh appearance in the semifinals overall. The Purple & White will take on No. 2 Benedictine University (30-0) Friday, March 18 at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- With the score knotted at 73-73 with 3:32 remaining in regulation, Amherst scored 13 unanswered points highlighted by a Johnny McCarthy '18 trey to help the Purple & White pull away to an 86-73 victory.
- Green led all players with 25 points and added six rebounds, while McCarthy hit on 6-of-12 from the field and registered 15 points. Michael Riopel '18 added 12 points off the bench, while Eric Conklin '17 and David George '17 followed with 11 points each. McCarthy pulled in a team-high nine rebounds, while George, Green, and Jayde Dawson '18 hauled in six each.
- Amherst shot 47% from the floor and 29.2% from three-point range, while connecting on 70.8% from the free throw line. The Purple & White capitalized with 23 points on 15 Tufts turnovers, and outscored the Jumbos, 40-24 in the paint.
- Tufts was led by Tom Palleschi and Stephen Haladyna who netted 20 points each, while Tarik Smith notched 14 points in the losing effort. Ben Engvall chipped in nine points off the bench, while Ryan Spadaford led all players with 11 boards. Haladyna added eight rebounds, while Smith dished out five assists.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- Leading 14-12 with 11:18 remaining in the first half after a back-and-forth start to the period, Jeff Racy '17 muscled in a layup that sparked a 10-0 run that was capped by a pair of Conklin free throws giving Amherst a 24-12 advantage.
- Tufts chipped away at the deficit and a Smith trey at the 2:40 mark pulled the Jumbos to within six (35-29), before a pair of Smith free throws 1:05 later pulled the hosts to within four at 37-33.
- With 20 seconds left in the half, Jacob Nabatoff '17 swished a triple to give the Purple & White a 40-33 cushion.
- Smith then answered with a pair of foul shots with three seconds left to set the halftime score at 40-35 in favor of Amherst.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS
- At the 13:49 mark of the second period, Palleschi powered in a layup to knot the game at 51-51, before Spadaford collected an offensive board, made the put-back and converted the ensuing foul shot to give the Jumbos a 54-51 edge.
- Tufts was able to run its lead to as many seven (62-55) following a Smith bucket underneath at the 11:15 mark, but McCarthy answered with a three-pointer to make it 62-58.
- The sides exchanged baskets and battled to two tie scores over the next seven-plus minutes before George hit the front end of two free throws to break a 73-73 stalemate 3:32 .
- From there, the Purple & White mounted an impressive 12-0 run over the final 3:32 as Green, Riopel, and Reid Berman '17 each made a bucket, while McCarthy added a strike from beyond-the-arc an and a free throw to help seal the 86-73 win.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Amherst is now 2-1 against Tufts this season after falling to the Jumbos, 84-73 in the regular season on Feb. 6. The Purple & White has since won the NESCAC Championship Semifinals encounter (86-83 on Feb. 27), and tonight's NCAA Elite Eight contest.
- The Purple & White improves to 41-17 all-time in NCAA postseason play, and currently boasts a 3-1 record in neutral site contests entering Final Four action on Friday.