AMHERST, Mass. – With their head coach absent from the sidelines for the first time in 42 years, Amherst College men's basketball pulled off an exciting 63-62 win over their bitter rival, handing Williams College their first loss of the year on Wednesday evening at LeFrak Gymnasium.
Despite the physical absence of head coach Dave Hixon, who was with his family after the loss of his mother Dawn this week, assistant coach Aaron Toomey emphasized that he was in their thoughts as they overcame an 11-point second half deficit to knock off the number three team in the country.
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"I told the guys that this was going to be a full-team effort, all 19 of us," said Toomey, who filled in for Hixon, the former mentor that coached him to two National Player of the Year accolades. "That 19 includes coach and everything he has done for us and meant to us. He's coached games in a wheelchair, in a boot, in a sling, but this was the first time he had ever missed a game, so we wanted to get it for him."
Fru Che knocked down a jump-shot with eight seconds left to deliver the victory for Amherst as the lead changed hands three times over the final thirty-four seconds.
MBB: @CoachA2me talked about the Mammoth’s 63-62 win over Williams as he filled the shoes of Coach Hixon tonight for @AmherstMBball! #tusksup #postgamethoughts @d3hoops @AmherstCollege pic.twitter.com/vfxWCUo0VJ— Amherst College Athletics (@AmherstMammoths) January 17, 2019
Amherst went 11-23 from the three-point line in the win, including a 3-3 effort from Che, who scored 11 points, and a 4-6 showing from Garrett Day, who led the Mammoths with twelve points and gave the home team the lead with just over half a minute remaining with his final triple of the day.
On the other end of the floor, James Heskett knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Ephs back in front after Amherst had come all the way back from a 49-38 deficit with 11:09 to play. After an Amherst time-out, Che's elbow jumper rolled home and Amherst was able to defend a game-winning attempt from Bobby Casey, who led Williams with 19 points and four assists.
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The Mammoths opened the game with a 14-6 run to grab what would end up being their largest lead of the night with five minutes gone. Grant Robinson was active early with six of his 11 points in the opening five minutes.
Robinson, who gave out a game-high six assists and had a pair of steals, hit a triple with a minute and a half to play in the first half, breaking a six and a half minute scoreless streak for Amherst. However, the Mammoth defense held Williams in check as well, and the Ephs took just a 29-26 lead to the locker room.
Casey made three-point jump-shots on two consecutive possessions early in the second half before Williams ran off a 13-3 spurt to take an 11-point lead when Henry Feinberg turned an offensive rebound into one of his six points.
Timmy McCarthy and Day hit three's on subsequent possessions and Eric Sellew tipped in a rebound to put Amherst back in the game, though the hosts wouldn't take the lead again until the three-minute mark, when Che knocked down a three-pointer.
Two free-throws by Casey and a layup by Michael Kempton gave the visitors a three-point pad again, but Sellew scored a layup with 1:20 left to cap his 10-point, eight rebound night, setting up the final minute sequence to end the game.
Senior Joe Schneider grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for Amherst and also recorded a pair of blocks. Matt Karpowicz scored nine points, grabbed eight rebounds and had four blocks for the Ephs.
Williams returns home for a four-game home-stand, starting this Saturday when they host Middlebury at 3:00 PM.
The Mammoths will travel to Hamilton on Saturday for a NESCAC game at the same time.