AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College connected on 13-of-24 three-point field goals (54.2%), including 10-of-14 attempts in a 63-point first half, and the fifth-ranked Lord Jeffs knocked Plymouth State University out of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament Saturday night with a 113-85 Second Round victory at Alumni Gymnasium.
Ranked fifth in the nation in the D3Hoops.com poll, Amherst improves to 25-3 on the season and 6-0 all-time in home NCAA Tournament games. Amherst set a single-season school record with its 25th win, and the Jeffs’ 113 points were a season high. The Lord Jeffs advance to the NCAA Sectionals (Round of 16) for the third consecutive year, where they’ll face New Jersey City University (22-6) at a site to be determined.
Plymouth State completes its most successful season in school history at 24-6. The Panthers established a program record for wins in a season and registered the first NCAA Tournament victory with Thursday night’s First Round triumph over Castleton State.
Senior guard Adam Harper (Washington, D.C.) led the Jeffs with a career-high 29 points, hitting 10-of-15 shot attempts and 6-of-9 from three-point range. Classmate John Donovan (Holmdel, N.J.) finished with 25 points, converting a pair of three’s and 15-of-16 free throws. Senior Tim Jones (Richmond, Va.) made 7-of-10 shot attempts, including both three-point tries, and finished with 19 points and a team-high 12 rebounds, while junior Andrew Schiel (Wayne, Pa.) and sophomore John Bedford (Ridgewood, N.J.) chipped in with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The Panthers were led by juniors Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine) and Anthony Oglesby (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and freshman Andreas Pope (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Amherst couldn’t stop Pelotte, and the lightning-quick guard finished with 33 points in 24 minutes, making 12-of-20 shots overall and 3-of-6 from three-point range. Oglesby finished with 24 points, a season-high 18 rebounds and four steals, while Pope converted 7-of-11 shots and ended up with 16 points. Oglesby also came up one point shy of scoring his 1,000th career point.
PSU didn’t play poorly in the first half, scoring 47 points and committing only six turnovers, but trailed by 16 as the Lord Jeffs seemingly couldn’t miss. The hosts hit 19-of-31 overall in the opening 20 minutes (61.3 percent), and 10-of-14 from long range, all against a PSU team that is ranked eighth in the nation in FG percentage defense (37.9).
The Jeffs got strong inside play from Schiel and Jones, but it was the sharpshooting of Harper, Donovan and Schiel that lifted Amherst to the halftime advantage. Harper hit 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in the first half, and Donovan and Schiel each made 2-of-3.
“If they would’ve missed three of those three-pointers in the first half, it’s a seven-point game instead of a 16-point game,” said Pelotte, “and maybe things would’ve been different in the second half. But give them credit. It’s their gym, and the ball went in for them.”
The Panthers stayed in the game, thanks largely to Pelotte. After leading the team with 16 points in the first half, Pelotte scored the first 12 Panther points in the second half on a combination of short jumpers and running lay-ups in traffic. Oglesby, Pope and senior Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H.) also contributed key hoops in a second-half PSU run, and the Panthers cut the deficit to 10 points (78-68) with 9:40 on the clock.
The physical play of the Jeffs had the Panthers in foul trouble, and it caught up with the visitors in the second half as four starters fouled out. Senior J.J. Truman (Enfield, N.H.) headed to the bench with 14 minutes remaining, and Pelotte followed with 7:49 to play. Loughlin and senior Ryan Chicoine (Gorham, Maine) also got whistled for their fifth fouls, ending their game, season, and careers.
With Plymouth State still within 11 points (84-73) with eight minutes remaining, the Jeffs went on a 19-2 run over the next four minutes to put the Panthers away. The Panthers got all 15 players in uniform into the game down the stretch.
“I’m just real proud of my guys,” said PSU head coach John Scheinman. “They gave a great effort and tried real hard to the end. The foul trouble hurt us, but I give all the credit in the world to Amherst. That’s why they’re No. 5 in the country.”
“What we did this season was special,” Scheinman added. “The school record for wins. The first NCAA Tournament win in school history. One of only six at-large berths in the country. Those are special accomplishments, and the kids have been a joy.”