Men's Basketball Seeks Improvement From Winter

Men’s basketball saw a string of up and down results in January, but pulled off big-time wins against conference rivals Williams and Wesleyan.

Men's Basketball Seeks Improvement From Winter
Guard Garrett Day '22 pulls up for a jump shot in the team's game against Colby on Saturday, Feb. 5.

After beginning the season on an undefeated 8-0 run, Amherst men’s basketball came back from their shortened winter break looking to build upon their early success. While they have faced some tough tests, they now boast a 15-6 overall record and sit at 5-3 in conference play heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

The Mammoths suffered their first loss of the season against Babson College on New Year’s Eve, falling to the Beavers by a score of 70-59. The game was tight heading into the second half when a late three-pointer from Garrett Day ’22 made it 49-46 Mammoths. However, it was all Babson from then on, as they went on a 12-0 run and didn’t look back. Despite the loss, Day had a monster 35-point performance, and Ryker Vance ’25 controlled the defensive end with four blocks.

Looking to get back into the win column, the Mammoths matched up against a formidable Wesleyan team. In what turned out to be a wild game, Amherst fell to the Cardinals 94-85 in triple overtime. Day led the way with 32 points, and Michael Schretter ’23 contributed 13 of his own. Ten different Amherst players recorded a basket in a complete team effort that fell just short. Although Wesleyan is a NESCAC opponent, this game did not count toward either team’s conference record but was played as a part of the “Little Three” Championship that is contested every year between Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan.

The Mammoths officially opened up NESCAC play on the road at Middlebury College on Jan. 7. Both teams started off cold, shooting a combined 2 for 17 in the opening minutes. However, both teams soon got comfortable, offenses began to flow, and the game was knotted at 31-31 at the half. It stayed tight for the majority of the second half, but with 2:42 to go in the game, Middlebury took a 63-55 lead and went on to defeat the Mammoths 78-64. Will Scherer ’25 nearly notched a double-double with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting and nine rebounds. Canin Reynolds ’25 added 15 points in the loss.

The Mammoths returned to Massachusetts with little time to dwell on the loss, as they traveled to No. 17 Williams the next day. Similar to the Middlebury game, this contest was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, with neither team able to pull away. In the second half, however, the Mammoths began to create some separation. Senior captain Grant Robinson ’22 scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and shot 14 for 14 at the free-throw line to help the Mammoths keep the game tight. Free throws proved to be the difference-maker, as the Mammoths shot 23 for 26 from the charity stripe, while Williams went 4 for 7. At the final horn, Amherst handed Williams their first loss of the season with a 73-65 win.

Sitting at .500 in NESCAC play, Amherst returned to their home floor on Jan. 14 against Bates. The Mammoths’ resiliency was on display as they came all the way back from an 11-point deficit and tied the game at 57-57 on a pull-up jump shot by Robinson. Amherst held the Bobcats without a field goal for the final seven minutes of the game and closed out on an 18-2 run to complete a 63-58 comeback win. Robinson chipped in 23 points, while Day contributed 11 points and Dan Schlakman ’24 tallied 10 points to join his teammates in double-figures.

The Mammoths remained at home for another NESCAC matchup against Tufts the following day, Jan. 15. While Amherst led by as much as 12 in the first half, they couldn’t hang onto their lead, falling by a score of 74-66. Tufts took advantage of their dominance on the offensive glass, turning 12 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points. Day had 18 points and shot a perfect 8 for 8 from the charity stripe. Robinson also added 14 points, and Noah Helmke ’25 contributed nine to pace the Mammoths.

Amherst looked to bounce back with a mid-week, non-conference rematch against Williams on Jan. 19. The Mammoths went on a 14-3 run to tie the game at 40 apiece with 11 minutes to go, but the Ephs quickly responded with back-to-back threes to retake the lead. They maintained their lead the rest of the way to defeat Amherst 60-54. Robinson and Day ended with 17 and 12 points, respectively.

On Jan. 22, the Mammoths traveled to upstate New York to battle the Hamilton Continentals in what shaped out to be quite a low-scoring affair. Amherst shot just 32 percent from the floor, and Hamilton didn’t shoot much better at 35 percent. Robinson hit two free throws with just six seconds remaining to give the Mammoths a 53-52 lead. However, Hamilton managed to tip in a rebound right as time expired, defeating the Mammoths 54-53.

Following the heartbreaking loss, the Mammoths traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to take on Pratt Institute. Amherst was in control from the jump, leading 46-13 at the half with three-pointers by Tim McCarthy ’22 and C.J. Mitchell ’25 capping the frame. Thirteen different players tallied a basket, and the Mammoths drained 17 threes en route to a lopsided 90-29 victory. Pratt’s 29 points were the fewest allowed by an Amherst men’s basketball team in 40 years.

Looking to build on their momentum, the Mammoths traveled to Wesleyan on Jan. 28 for a crucial NESCAC showdown. With the game tied 75-75 with a few seconds remaining in regulation, the Mammoths had a good chance to win it, but their shots fell just short. The Wesleyan crowd seemed awfully excited to make it to the overtime period, but their excitement would prove to be short-lived. Down one with 10 seconds to go, Robinson lined up a three and drilled it to give the Mammoths the lead. The Cardinals came down the floor anxious to tie the score, but their hopes were thwarted by a McCarthy steal that sealed the 83-81 win for the Mammoths.

The Mammoths didn’t have much time to rest after Friday’s thriller before a Sunday evening matchup at Misericordia University on Jan. 30. With just under five minutes to play, Amherst went from down three to up four after Robinson scored seven unanswered points in a row. The Mammoths didn’t relinquish the lead from there, helped by key plays from Beluolisah Oranye ’24 down the stretch. Robinson scored 19 points and went 3 for 5 from beyond the arc, Schretter had nine points and 10 rebounds, and Oranye scored nine and grabbed nine boards as well.

The Mammoths continued the second half of their NESCAC campaign on Saturday, Feb. 5, returning to Lefrak Gymnasium at home to take on Colby. Before the game, the team took the time to honor their four seniors: Day, Robinson, McCarthy, and Devonn Allen ’22. The game itself saw these seniors go out in style, with all four starting the game and scoring for the Mammoths during a contest in which they never trailed. With a four-point lead late in the second half, the Mammoths turned on the jets, going on an 11-2 run to put the game away. Day had 27 points in his 100th career game, including recording his 1,000th career point on a three-pointer midway through the second half.

Not resting on their Senior Day success, the Mammoths returned the following day, Feb. 6, to take on Bowdoin in another crucial NESCAC matchup. Again, the Mammoths jumped out to an early lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. A Robinson jumper with 8:34 to go in the first half gave the Mammoths their largest lead of the period at 13 points, but the Polar Bears stormed back, cutting the lead to three at the break. The second half saw the Mammoths regain their momentum; a Day three-pointer put the lead back at eight points with 13 minutes to go. The lead would stay at eight until two minutes of intentional fouling at the end of the half drove the final score to 68-56 in favor of the Mammoths. Day continued his hot streak, posting a team-high 24 points, a total that was matched by Robinson. With the win, the team moved to 15-6 overall and 5-3 in the NESCAC.

If these past 14 games showed us anything, it’s that this team is comfortable with adversity, which will suit them quite well come playoff time. Robinson was recently awarded the NESCAC Player of the Week Award for his performances against Wesleyan and Misericordia, averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game during that stretch. With the team firing on all cylinders, the Mammoths head into Hartford for a matchup against Trinity on Feb. 11. They will look to continue their hot streak and gain some ground in the NESCAC standings. Following Trinity, Amherst has one contest remaining in the regular season, against conference opponent Connecticut College, before the NESCAC Tournament begins on Feb. 16.