Men's basketball drops heartbreaker to No. 21 Amherst

Matt Hart '16
Matt Hart '16

Peter Kaasila '13 scored on a layup with 2.0 seconds left and lifted nationally ranked No. 21 Amherst College to a 79-77 NESCAC win against Hamilton College at Hamilton's Margaret Bundy Scott Field House on Jan. 11.

Amherst (12-2 overall, 3-0 NESCAC) won its sixth game in a row. The Lord Jeffs shot 53.8 percent (28-52) from the field, including 10 of 20 from 3-point range.

Kaasila finished with a game-high 21 points, 14 of which were scored in the second half. Connor Green '16 drained five 3-pointers off the bench and ended up with 15 points. Aaron Toomey '14 recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Willy Workman '13 dropped in 13 points and Tom Killian '14 handed out seven of Amherst's 20 assists.

Matt Hart '16 sank four shots from long range and paced the Continentals (7-8, 0-3) with 19 points. Peter Kazickas '15 tied his season high with 14 points and Eric Benvenuti '13 had 10 off the bench. Ken Click '13 and Greg Newton '14 added nine points apiece. Matt Dean '14 pulled down seven rebounds and Hans Schulte '13 made four steals.

After Workman made two free throws to tie the score for the fifth time in the second half at 77-77 with 51 seconds remaining, Hamilton had the ball and a chance to take the lead. But with the shot clock winding down, Killian stole a pass and the Lord Jeffs came back down the court.

Amherst didn't call timeout, instead getting the ball into the hands of the point guard Toomey. As the final seconds ticked away, Toomey dribbled into the lane, drew two defenders and found a wide open Kaasila under the basket for the game-winning hoop. After a pair of timeouts, Benvenuti's inbounds pass found Hart near half court, but his desperation heave was off the mark.

"Amherst made the effort plays in the last minute to earn the win. Although it was great to be at home and the guys fought hard, we need to learn how to close out games like this," said head coach Adam Stockwell. "Amherst showed that they have this experience and we are in the process of learning how to do it. Hopefully, we will continue to have great effort and teamwork throughout the rest of the season. If we do, the results we are looking for will come."

The score was tied at 40 at the half. Hart led the Continentals with 14 points and Green had 12 for the Lord Jeffs at the break. The lead changed hands 14 times. Hamilton's largest lead of the second half was five points and Amherst led by no more than two points during the final 20 minutes. Kaasila's game-winning basket was the first lead for the Jeffs since they were up 64-63 with 9:23 left.

Amherst held a 33-27 rebounding advantage. The Continentals shot 47 percent (30-64) from the floor, including 11 of 23 from beyond the arc. Hamilton turned the ball over just six times. The Lord Jeffs lead the all-time series, 13-6.

The Continentals are back in action on Sunday, Jan. 13, for another NESCAC game against Trinity College. Amherst hosts Wesleyan University on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

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