February 5, 2008




Amherst, Mass.--The Amherst College menís basketball team jumped back into the top spot of the Top-25 poll yesterday, just one day before welcoming non-conference rival Rhode Island College to town. Amherst ran away with the game for a 97-63 win at LeFrak Gymnasium.


In recent series history, the Lord Jeffs dispatched of the Anchormen twice last season, including an 86-69 Elite Eight win en route to the national championship.


The Lord Jeffs started the game with four consecutive three pointers from senior Brandon Jones (Hopatcong, NJ) and junior Brian Baskaukas (Palo Alto, CA). Jones hit three of the four, en route to a very early 12-4 Amherst lead.


After a pair of buckets from seniors Fletcher Walters (Ann Arbor, MI) and Kevin Hopkins (Greenfield Center, NY), Jones appeared to injure his foot on a defensive rebound. Before head coach David Hixon í75 could even get a sub to the table, Jones nailed his fourth three of the game to give Amherst a 19-4 lead with 15:32 to play in the half.


Jones assured the coaching staff that someone had just stepped on his toe, and returned a few minutes later to hit his fifth straight three to start the game. Senior captain Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) assisted on his third Jones triple, and his seventh Amherst bucket overall.


Senior Matt Goldsmith (Morristown, NJ) got into the mix, scoring seven early points to increase the Amherst edge to 33-16 with 9:42 to play. With six minutes to go in the first half, the Anchormen made a small run to cut the Amherst lead to 13 points, before a pair of steals led to two straight lay-ups from Walters.


Jones came back off the bench to score again for Amherst, increasing the lead to 44-28. With less than a minute to go in the half, Jones hit another three, his sixth straight to start the game. The bucket was the last of the half for either team, as it gave the Jeffs a 53-31 lead.


The senior scored 22 points to lead all players in the half, while Walters, the reigning NESCAC Player of the Week, had 14 of his own. Olson dished out seven assists in the half, despite scoring just three points. RIC was led by freshman guard Anthony Fortes (East Providence, RI) with eight points, and rookie backcourt mate Antone Gray (Providence, RI) with six points.


After five minutes of second half play, the two teams paced one another with 10 points each to maintain Amherstís 20-point advantage. From there, RIC went on a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 13 points once again.


Walters and Jones continued their hot scoring with 10 of 11 points for the Jeffs, giving them each 26 points. The duo powered Amherst back to a 77-55 lead with eight-and-a-half minutes to play.


The Anchormen went to a full-court press late in the half, trying to force more turnovers from the Jeffs. The experienced Amherst squad was able to break the pressure, and pushed to an 85-59 lead. Jones went to the bench to a standing ovation with a career-high 30 points, on 10-of-16 shooting overall, and 6-of-7 from three-point range.


Just moments later, Walters left to the same applause as he matched his career-high of 26 points and seven rebounds. Walters set that mark in the Jeffs last game, as he has now scored 52 points and pulled in 16 over a two-game span.


With two minutes remaining, Hixon emptied the bench for most likely the last time this season. The substitutes stepped up to the occasion, and provided the play of the game, if not the year. After junior Marcus Bradley (Latham, NY) grabbed a steal, he drove the length of the court and floated a one-handed scoop pass to classmate Mike Holsey (Potomac, MD) for an unbelievable dunk.


RIC was led by Fortes with 15 points and six rebounds, and Gray with nine points and four boards.


Amherst held on for a 97-63 win to improve to 19-2, while RIC falls to 15-5. The Jeffs will face Conn. College on the road Friday night. The Anchormen will host Little East Conference rival Plymouth State on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. at The Murray Center.