Dec. 6, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. - Brian Baskauskas scored a team-high 16 points, including 10 late in the second half as top-ranked Amherst narrowly escaped with a win against MIT on Thursday. The Lord Jeffs, who are the defending NCAA Division III national champions, kept their perfect record intact with a 66-60 victory, although the Engineers pushed Amherst to the limit after orchestrating a late run that cut the lead to two with less than one minute to play.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, junior Jimmy Bartolotta enjoyed another terrific game and led MIT (6-3) to a 34-26 lead at halftime after closing the opening period 7-of-10 from the floor for 16 points. Bartolotta finished the evening with a game-high 27 points as well as a game-best five assists, but was unable to off-set a tremendous offensive attack by Amherst (6-0).
The Lord Jeffs shot 57% from the field for the game and were 13-of-22 in the second half. Baskauskas delivered two three's and Andrew Olson added three more, all in the final 20 minutes, to help Amherst recover from a disappointing first half that left the home crowd stunned.
Behind its outstanding perimeter play, Amherst began to assert control and maintained a three-possession lead throughout most of the second half. After Glen Wong converted a lay-up with 4:40 left in regulation, the Lord Jeffs extended their advantage to a game-high 12 points by moving in front, 60-48.
MIT proved its resiliency, and once again quieted the packed LeFrak by climbing back into contention with a 12-2 run over the next three minutes that left the Engineers trailing by just a basket. Bradley Gampel had two of his game-high five steals during the stretch, while Will Mroz and Billy Johnson each drained a shot from beyond the arc.
Bartolotta continued to showcase an unbelievable drive to win, and despite drawing triple coverage, sliced through the defense for two lay-ups that left Amherst ahead, 62-60. After making another defensive stop, Bartolotta had a chance to tie the game with a third consecutive basket in the paint, but his left-handed drive rolled just off the rim and set the stage for Brandon Jones, who knocked down four straight free throws to ice the battle.
"We knew that Amherst wasn't going to just go away in the second half so we wanted to maintain our energy," commented associate head coach Oliver Eslinger. "Although we found ourselves down 12 in the final minutes and could have easily given up, we gave ourselves a chance to win with our defensive pressure."
Olson finished with 13 points and was 3-of-4 from long range in helping Amherst secure its sixth win to open the campaign. Jones also chipped in 13 after finishing 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. After committing 13 turnovers in the first half, Amherst gave up the ball only five times in the second while finishing the game 7-of-16 from three-point range.
Johnson was the only other MIT player to reach double figures, scoring 10 points in the loss. The Engineers won the battle of the boards, 28-20, but struggled from the field in the second half by shooting just 34.5%. Hamidou Soumare grabbed seven rebounds to pace all players while Bartolotta added six caroms.