Despite the home court advantage, the men’s basketball team found itself fighting an uphill battle in the stands and on the court during its Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Nichols College Bison. The Nichols fans quickly swallowed their section of the stands with green and black, along with the unregulated section and the majority of Amherst’s student section.
From the tip-off, the game turned into an intense battle. Most of the Bison’s offensive possessions involved either a complete isolation or a simple screen for the athletic backcourt of Marcos Echevarria and DeAnte Burton.
This combo caused problems for Amherst’s rotations, and Nichols got to the paint and the free-throw line consistently. Amherst, however, caused Nichols plenty of problems of their own, consistently producing open looks from ball-screens, particularly in the high post. The team struggled to make shots, however, shooting 10-27 in the first half.
Despite these issues on offense, Amherst controlled the game on defense and entered the second half tied with Nichols.
Five minutes into the second half, center Joe Schneider ’19 blocked a shot from Nichols center Matt Morrow, after which Eric Sellew ’20 took the ball up the court on the fast break and made a tough layup to put Amherst up 37-30.
The Nichols fans started to deflate, as Amherst took the largest lead of the game thus far.
The Bison on the court were stretched to their breaking point, but not, as it would turn out, past it.
Burton put the team on his back, assisting on two Bison threes, making two threes, two free throws, a shaky one-legged jumper.
The teams then traded baskets as they battled for the right to play Swarthmore College in the Elite Eight, and the clock wound down to just two minutes left to play, with the score still tight at 59-54 in favor of Nichols.
The Mammoths, however, with their season on the line, worked back into the game. Schneider made a layup in traffic and Sellew put away two free throws to bring the Nichols lead to just one point.
A questionable foul call brought a Nichols guard to the free-throw line; he proceeded to seal victory for the Bison, ending Amherst’s season once and for all.
Amherst, however, returns the entirety of their starting lineup excluding Schneider next season, and will look to dominate the NESCAC when the 2020 season comes around.