LANCASTER, Pa. — Georgio Milligan saved his best performance of the season for the biggest game of the year with a season-high 30 points to lead No. 9 Franklin & Marshall to an 80-71 victory against No. 2 Amherst in the NCAA tournament on Friday night.
Milligan scored eight of those points in the final 2:41 of the game after Amherst pulled within three at 68-65. The senior hit the backend of his two shots from the stripe and nailed a jumper seconds later to put the Diplomats up six 71-65, at 2:10. The Lord Jeffs scored on their next possession before Matt Porter tallied consecutive free throws to put the Diplomats up seven with under a minute to play.
David Waller hit one of two from the line to bring Amherst within six, but Milligan answered with two from the line to put F&M up 76-68 with 37 seconds remaining in the game. Taylor Barrise hit a trey on the Lord Jeffs’ next trip down the court, setting up one of the most exciting plays of the game.
Knowing Amherst was going to try and foul, F&M brought everyone up close to the baseline for the inbound pass. Milligan slipped behind the defense, and Gyokchyan fired a pass three-quarters down the court that hit Milligan in stride, which set up a traditional three-point play. Milligan hit the foul shot with 17 seconds remaining, which put F&M ahead 79-71, before Porter hit the backend of two shots for the final margin.
Both teams traded buckets over the opening minutes of the game with Amherst coming out with an 11-10 lead at the 16-minute mark. The Diplomats answered with a 7-0 run to go up 17-11 at 14:19. F&M reached a double-digit lead at 24-14 midway through the half before the Lord Jeffs battled back to come within 28-24 at 7:59.
F&M rallied off four unanswered points to go up eight, but Amherst responded with a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to 34-30 at 2:30. The Lord Jeffs came within two at 34-32, before Jon Salandra hit two from the line to put F&M up 36-32, with 1:18 remaining in the half. F&M missed on its next trip down the court and David Kalema hit a 3-pointer for the Lord Jeffs as time expired to send the game into the break with F&M ahead 36-35.
Amherst tied the game at 36 with under a minute played in the second half before F&M rallied off four unanswered points, but Aaron Toomey hit a 3-pointer at 18:03 to bring Amherst to within 40-39.
The Diplomats answered with a 5-0 run to lead 45-39 and held onto a 49-45 edge at 13:26. The Diplomats put together an 8-0 run over the next four minutes to go up 57-45 with 9:13 remaining in the game. Amherst answered with a 9-2 run to come within 59-54 at 7:29.
The teams exchanged points over the next three minutes with F&M holding onto a 68-63 lead at 4:17. Both teams had trouble scoring during the next two minutes and Toomey hit two from the line to bring Amherst within 68-65 at 2:41, setting up Milligan’s strong finish.
Milligan went 11-for-16 from the floor and added seven assists for F&M. Ed Early scored 13 on 6-for-8 shooting while Porter and Salandra both finished with 10 points apiece. Salandra added a team-high eight boards and Morgan Lee finished with eight.
Toomey scored a team-high 21 points for the Lord Jeffs while no other Amherst player reached double figures.
F&M shot 62 percent from the floor while its defense limited Amherst to just 37 percent shooting.