Jeffs hope third time is charm vs. Cards

Bates, the number-one team in the country, dealt the Jeffs a 72-52 loss on Friday night, while Tufts topped Amherst with a 76-67 defeat. Despite the two disappointing losses, Amherst (14-10, 4-5 NESCAC) managed to grab the fifth seed in the NESCAC Tournament, which begins on Saturday.

Despite impressive efforts, the Jeffs didn’t have the strength to outplay the second-ranked Bobcats last Friday. Bates came out strong, gaining an early 9-1 advantage within the first 4:31, and the visitors never looked back. Bates played an aggressively defensive game. They held Amherst to 6-29 (20.7 percent) from the field in the first half. Coming into the game, the Jeffs knew that they would have to take care of the ball in order to win, as Bates holds the best turnover margin in the NESCAC. This proved difficult as the Jeffs finished with 17 turnovers versus the Bobcats’ 12. Rebounding was a more successful endeavor for Amherst. The Jeffs were able to match the Bobcats, the conference’s leading rebounding team, with 43 boards apiece. The Jeffs’ sloppy ball control and poor shooting, however, allowed the Bobcats to take a commanding 44-17 lead at the break.

Determined to fight back, the Jeffs were able to cut the deficit to 17 points within six minutes of the second half with a three-pointer by sophomore guard Jenny Muller. Despite outscoring Bates in the second half 35-28, it was the closest the Jeffs would come to the feisty Bobcats. Muller led the Jeffs with 12 points, while rookie forward Stephanie Reiff had 10. Fellow first-year Khalilah Licorish added four points and four rebounds in only 11 minutes off the bench. Four different Bates players notched double digits, led by Meg Coffin’s game-high 19 points.

Saturday’s game honored the only senior, co-captain Kate Herlihy, in her last regular season game in LeFrak Gymnasium. Herlihy has accumulated a total of 194 points and 75 rebounds in her Amherst career and has helped the team to 47 wins in her four seasons as a Jeff. An extremely hard worker, she has earned both the respect and friendship of her teammates as captain this year. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t quite snag a victory in her last home game.

The Jumbos, 14-9 overall and 3-6 in the league, grabbed an early 15-2 lead that they would never give up. The Tufts offense had an impressive showing, hitting over 50 percent of its shots in the first half. Amherst cut the deficit to three with 4:24 left before the break, and the team seemed to be breaking for the lead. However, Tufts fought back and ended the half with a 42-33 lead.

“We knew that Bates was going to be tough, but in both games we came out slow and dug ourselves a hole that we could not climb out of,” said junior co-captain Krissy Morin.

Despite finishing with four players in double digits, Amherst would not approach Tufts’ lead in the second half. Morin led the team with 17 points, followed closely behind by forward Katie Latham ’06 and rookie point guard Shaina Pollack, each of whom scored 12 points. Forward Matia Kostakis ’08 nearly had a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Between Kostakis and Julie Smith ’06, who rank fourth and first in blocked shots in the NESCAC, respectively, the Jeffs block more shots than any other squad in the conference, averaging 5.13 blocks per game. Jumbo Allison Love notched a game-high 22 points.

The women played at non-conference opponent Russell Sage College Monday night in Amherst’s last regular-season game. “We are looking to get another win under our belt before NESCAC playoffs,” said Morin before the game. The Jeffs did just that, cruising to a 67-49 victory. Amherst plays at fourth-seeded Wesleyan University on Saturday at 3 p.m. for a chance to continue on to the NESCAC Final Four. The Jeffs have played the Cardinals twice already this season, losing both match-ups by 10 points or fewer, including a heated 50-42 decision in their last meeting. The team clearly believes that they are capable of pulling off the upset in Middletown.

“We are going to work on our execution and communication for the tournament; I think if we start out strong and do the little things that we can beat Wesleyan,” says Morin. “We know what Wesleyan is going to do, and having lost close games to them twice already, by 10 and eight, we are not letting this team knock us out in the first round.” Should the Jeffs win on Friday, they will advance to play the winner of top-seeded Bowdoin and eighth-seeded Trinity College.