Men’s Basketball Set to Clash with Rival Williams in NESCAC Semifinal Match
Men’s basketball will travel to Clinton, New York on Feb 24 to face Williams. The matchup will feature not only the animosity between bitter enemies, but also some of the best basketball that the NESCAC has to offer. Although the Mammoths are seeded third, ahead of the fourth-seeded Ephs, the clash of two disciplined teams surely bodes well for spectators of all persuasions.
Amherst plays exciting, energetic basketball, indicative of the team’s youth. The core of the team’s offensive arsenal is the efficency of point guard Grant Robinson ’21 and the mobility of wing Fru Che ’21. Both sophomores, debuted in last season’s campaign with significant playing time, have averaged over 10 points per game this season.
Sixth-man Garrett Day also provides a spark plug for the second unit’s offense. In addition to their youthful core, the Mammoths rely on the veteran guidance of senior center Joe Schneider, who is averaging around two blocks a game and anchors the Mammoths in defense.
His partner down low, power forward Eric Sellew ’20, cements the starting unit, leading the team in rebounds with 8.4 per game.
The Ephs, however, will not be an easy opponent. Amherst has only won one more game than their rivals, and the two teams are nearly identical in terms of offensive and defensive output.
Both teams score around 85 points a game, and concede only 65. Williams, however, plays at a pace just a tick slower than the Mammoths, as head coach Dave Hixon ’75 gives his starters the green light to shoot, in comparison to Williams’ preference to slow the game’s pace.
Earlier in the season, in a defining moment of Amherst’s resiliency, the team upset the then top-ranked Ephs. Amherst was without Hixon and in his stead assistant coach Aaron Toomey ’14 led the Mammoths to victory. Toomey won the National Player of the Year for Amherst in 2013 and 2014 and is the only Amherst player ever to score 2,000 points; after time as Hixon’s protegee, the coach guided the Mammoths to a game-winning shot in the last few seconds.
Amherst furthered the saga when it traveled to Williamstown and downed the Ephs again, just two weekend ago, 84-79.
This past weekend, the Mammoths ended their season on the road with a convincing win over Wesleyan, 63-56.
Che scored a game-high 30 points on 11 for 18 shooting, enough to earn him NESCAC Player of the Week honors. The six-foot five-inch small forward has been excellent from range this season, shooting 37.5 percent from deep on over 120 attempts.
It is with these last two contests against Williams in mind that the two rivals meet in the NESCAC conference tournament, with both the Mammoths and the Ephs looking to write another chapter of an already contentious season.
All the chips are on the table this weekend, however, as the Mammoths look to claim a NESCAC final berth, and along with it, a ticket to the NCAA DIII tournament. Williams, however, stands in their way, and will not go quietly into the night.