AMHERST, Mass. — In a battle of unbeaten ranked teams, the No. 17 Amherst College men’s basketball team handed No. 2 Williams College its first loss of the season in overtime this afternoon, winning 92-89. The Lord Jeffs remain perfect at 12-0, while the Ephs drop to 13-1 overall with the non-conference result.
Amherst rookie Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, NC) led the Lord Jeffs with 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals. Sophomore Peter Kaasila (Plaistow, NH) added a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Conor Meehan (Meriden, CT), Willy Workman (Northampton, MA) and Taylor Barrise (Allendale, NJ) each scored in double-digits as well. James Wang and Nate Robertson led Williams with 27 and 19 points, respectively, in the loss.
Both teams looked shaky in the early going, combining for zero points and two turnovers for the first two minutes. Wang finally got the Ephs on the board to start, finishing off a three point play the old fashioned way with 17:57 to play. Robertson put Williams up 9-2, but Workman responded with a finger role in the lane.
Amherst closed the gap to 10-6 on a Toomey score, before the two sides traded baskets. Toomey used a high screen to get all the way to the rim again, cutting the margin to 13-10. With 11:47 to play in the first half, Workman made a pair at the charity stripe to leave the Lord Jeffs down just 13-12. Hayden Rooke-Ley scored in the paint for the Ephs, but Amherst junior Tim Prowitt (Arlington, VA) had a smooth lay-in to respond.
Williams opened back up an 18-14 advantage, but Kaasila tipped in a Workman miss and Toomey made 1-of-2 at the line to cut the margin to a point once again. Coming out of the game’s first timeout, Rooke-Ley made a step-back three, but Kaasila responded with another interior score.
Barrise and Prowitt hit back-to-back three points for Amherst, giving the Jeffs their first lead of the game at 25-23 with 7:26 to play in the half. Rooke-Ley answered right back with a long two pointer to tie the game once again.
Just before the five minute mark, Toomey and Taylor Epley traded three pointers to keep the game deadlocked at 28-28. Workman put-back a Prowitt miss with a reverse lay-up tip-in with 2:59 to play, tying the game once again at 30 points apiece.
Toomey drew an offensive foul on Robertson to wipe-away a basket, and Kaasila scored on the ensuing possession. After consecutive scores by the Ephs, Amherst held for the last shot of the half. Jeff Holmes (Saunderstown, RI) missed a three with five seconds left, sending the Jeffs into the break down just 36-34.
After playing just two minutes because of foul trouble in the first half, Meehan scored the first basket of the second half. Williams got a three from Harlan Dodson, but Allen Williamson (Saugas, MA) and Kaasila scored six straight points to give the Jeffs a 42-39 lead.
The Ephs went on a 6-0 scoring run to regain the lead, forcing Amherst head coach David Hixon ’75 to use a timeout. Coming out of the stoppage Kaasila closed in on a double-double with another offensive rebound and score.
With 11:18 remaining in the second half, Holmes scored off a lob by Toomey, leaving Amherst down a score at 55-53. Workman drilled a triple from the left corner to steal the lead back for Amherst, once again off a feed by Toomey. The two teams traded small leads for a five minute period, with a Meehan three tying the game at 65-65 with 5:58 to play.
Coming out of a Williams timeout, Robertson completed a three-point play the old fashioned way, but Toomey responded by blowing past his defender for a score. The two teams were tied at 68-68 and then again at 70-70 when Meehan had a baseline floater fall with 2:19 showing on the clock.
Off another timeout, Wang hit a triple from the left corner to regain a three-point lead for the Ephs, 73-70 with 2:03 to go. Amherst came up empty on its next possession, but the Jeffs forced a turnover on Williams’ next trip. Meehan closed the margin to 73-72 on a pair of free throws with 1:02 remaining, setting up another classic finish in the storied rivalry.
With 49 seconds left, Robertson made 1-of-2 at the line, allowing Amherst to tie the game on another strong drive and finish by Toomey. The Ephs called a timeout with 24.8 to go and 21 seconds on the shot clock; the score knotted at 74-74. Amherst forced Wang into a tough shot that rimmed out, as Meehan corralled the rebound. The Jeffs called a timeout with 4.2 to play, and would have a chance to shoot for the win and upset.
The Jeffs went to Toomey, as the rookie sped up the left side and pulled for a deep three at the buzzer. His shot was on line, but banked over the rim to send the game into overtime.
Amherst took possession of the overtime tip, and then got consecutive scores from Kaasila and Meehan for a four point lead. Klemm answered with a three for Williams, but Toomey drained a deep triple on Amherst’s next trip up the floor. Klemm didn’t think twice, hitting his second long in as many attempts.
With 1:59 to play, Dodson tied the game with a 1-for-2 stop at the free throw line. After the two sides traded turnovers, Toomey was fouled on a left-handed scoop shot. He made both free throws to put Amherst up 83-81 with 1:14 to go in overtime. Wang missed a three, and Meehan was able to draw a foul with 30.5 to play. He made both free throws, giving Amherst an 85-81 lead.
Williams caught a break when Brian Emerson was fouled diving for a loose ball on what seemed like a sure turnover. The Williams junior missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Barrise was fouled on the rebound. With 22.0 to play, Barisse made both to give the Jeffs an 87-83 lead. Wang used just seven seconds to go coast-to-coast for a bucket, but Williams would be forced to foul and hope for misses at the line down two possessions with 15.1 to play.
After Williamson made just 1-of-2 at the line, Wang hit a pull-up three with 8.5 to play to close to 88-86. Meehan made only 1-of-2 at the line, but Williamson grabbed the rebound on the miss with 6.0 to play and was fouled. The second time around Williamson made one at the line again, giving Amherst a crucial four point edge with only enough time left for one Williams shot.
Workman stole the ensuing long inbound pass and set up Toomey for a lay-up to seal the win. Wang made another three at the buzzer, but Amherst took the win 92-89. After a mid-week win over Wesleyan, today’s victory also earns Amherst the 2011 Little Three title.
The Lord Jeffs will take the week off before opening up NESCAC play next weekend with a road trip to Conn. College and Wesleyan.