Although Tufts entered Friday’s contest with a weak 4-11 record, Amherst came ready to play as the Jumbos were responsible for the Jeffs’ lone NESCAC blemish last season. But unlike last year, the outcome of this year’s meeting was never in doubt.
Amherst shot a blistering 61.1 percent from the field in the first half, which ended with the Jeffs leading by an impressive 59-29 margin. Head Coach Dave Hixon ’75 was able to empty his bench midway through the second half as Amherst cruised to an easy 99-54 victory. Tri-captain Tim Jones ’04 and Andrew Schiel ’05 led all scorers with 15 points each.
The next day, Amherst hosted a much-improved Bates team. Once again, the Jeffs started the game on fire. Amherst shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first half and held Bates to just 28.0 percent in one of the best halves of basketball the Jeffs have played all year long. However, the Bobcats refused to be defeated in just one half of basketball.
Taking advantage of some complacency on the part of Amherst, Bates went on an 11-0 run over the first five minutes of the second half to cut the Jeff lead to 42-31. Amherst seemed to regain its focus following this initial Bates run, but the Bobcats engineered another 11-0 scoring streak a few minutes later to make the score 56-49 with just seven minutes left to play. But this was the last run the Bobcats would make as the Jeffs were able to pull away in the closing minutes for a 71-57 victory.
The victory was particularly meaningful for tri-captain guard Adam Harper ’04, who notched six steals in the game to make him the College’s all-time leading steals man with 288 and counting. The previous record of 283 was held by Keith Poopor ’96. Harper, the reigning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, scored his 1000th career point earlier in the week, underscoring his versatility. “Getting the all-time steals record means a lot to me,” said Harper. “I have always prided myself on being able to play on both ends of the court. To see an opposing player or team become extremely frustrated because you are shutting down their offensive scheme makes the game that much more enjoyable.”
Amherst will travel to potentially dangerous Colby-Sawyer College on Thursday before returning to host 10th-ranked Trinity College on Saturday in an important NESCAC showdown.