Right out of the gate the Jeffs attacked the overmatched Norwich squad with much of their success coming from the defensive play of Adam Harper ’04. Midway through the first half Harper had three steals, and he was able to convert those steals into seven breakaway points. Amherst outscored the visitors 19-0 off of turnovers, and at halftime the Jeffs held a 42-20 lead.
Harper finished the game with a career-high 15 points on five-for-eight shooting.
A season-high 15 players were in the scoring column for the Jeffs, and they were led by Steve Zieja ’03 who had 17 points and seven rebounds on the night. Tri-captain Brian Daoust ’01 added 13 points.
The Amherst assault did not let up in the second half. In the second frame the Jeffs hit 22 of 25 shots from the charity stripe, and the bench players contributed 57 points on the night.
Against Rhode Island College on the Jan. 30, the Jeffs had no problem defending their home court.
The team started off the game with an 18-4 run and never looked back, going on to lead 49-27 at half time and winning the game with a final score of 94-67.
The team had great performances from all of their veterans, including Tri-captain Abe Sexson ’01, who posted a career-high 17 points for the Jeffs.
Pat Fitzsimons ’03 played well, hitting eight of nine shots from the floor and finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. Zieja added his eighth double-double of the season, pouring in 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Jeffs had a clear size advantage, and they used it to dominate the Anchormen on the inside. Clearly outmatched, Rhode Island struggled with only 10 rebounds in the first half, while Amherst pulled down over double that many-21.
In the second half, with the Jeffs out to a huge lead, Coach David Hixon ’75 played every man, allowing the bench to make a 44-point contribution to the win.
However, after this blowout win, the Jeffs stumbled in their next two games.
Amherst suffered their first road loss of the season against Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire on Feb 1. The two teams were neck-and-neck for the entire first half, a half in which there were 10 lead changes. The teams headed to the locker room deadlocked at 39.
The second half was another back-and-forth battle, but Colby-Sawyer pulled away in the final minutes. Ethan Betts, the Colby-Sawyer star, connected on a difficult running shot in the lane. He finished the game with 28 points.
The Jeffs were forced to foul, and Colby-Sawyer clinched the victory by sinking all six of their free throws in the final minutes.
Fitzsimons turned in a another great performance with 16 points and 14 rebounds-eight of which were offensive. Harper, who has been one of the Jeffs’ best defensive players all season long, contributed nine points and two steals.
In their next matchup, the Jeffs faced Trinity on Feb. 3. The outcome of the game would determine first place in the NESCAC, and it was clearly the Jeffs’ biggest game to date.
As opposed to the back-and-forth nature of the Colby-Sawyer game, against Trinity the game was characterized by large runs. The Bantams took an early 15-10 lead, but the Jeffs went on a 23-10 run to take it back and finished the first half strongly. The Jeffs led at halftime by nine points, shooting almost 57 percent from the field and seven-for-nine from behind the three-point line.
After the stellar first half, the Jeffs were unable to continue their hot shooting. As opposed to the first half, where it seemed as if everything was falling through the net for the Jeffs, they only converted two of their 10 three-point opportunities, and only a third of their total shots in the half.
Trinity opened the second half with a 10-2 run, cutting Amherst’s lead to one point. Although the Jeffs went on a mini-run of their own, Trinity answered with an 18-8 run to regain the lead.
In the losing effort, Zieja turned in great offensive numbers, leading all scorers with a career-high 31 points, in addition to seven rebounds. The scoring was rounded out by Fitszimmons, who had 11 points, Daoust, who added 11 points, and Harper, who scored nine for the Jeffs.
After the loss the Jeffs’ NESCAC record fell to 3-2, and the team lost their share of first place in the league. During the week the team peaked at number 22 in the national rankings, their first time in the top 25 this season.
This weekend the Jeffs have two more critical NESCAC matchups as they host Wesleyan University and Connecticut College.
In their first matchup of the season the Jeffs beat the Cardinals by 16 points on the road in Middletown. Daoust led the team with 23 points in the game.
The Jeffs have not faced the Camels this season, and this year Conn. is 14-5 with a 6-2 record on the road.