|Zak Ray '07 scored 26 of his career-high 30 points in the second half.|
AMHERST, Mass. -- Despite a career-high 30 points by Zak Ray, the top-seeded Amherst College men’s basketball team defeated No. 4 Bates College 86-66 win on Saturday afternoon to advance to the NESCAC Championship game for the sixth consecutive year.
Amherst, ranked No. 5 by D3Hoops.com, moves to 24-2 and will face third-seeded Tufts University, which advanced to tomorrow’s championship game with a 88-75 overtime win over second-seeded Trinity College, Sunday at noon, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Bates drops to 20-6, with the highest total of wins in school history, and awaits word of a possible at-large bid to the national tournament.
Amherst placed three players in double digits as senior co-captains John Bedford (Ridgewood, N.J.) and John Casnocha (San Francisco) led the way with 21 and 20 points, respectively, and junior forward Dan Wheeler (Bloomington, Minn.) chipped in with 18. Sophomore guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, Calif.) added nine points and dished out eight assists.
Bates junior forward Rob Stockwell (Temple, N.H.) netted seven early points as the Bobcats burst out of the gates. The squads exchanged baskets for the first five minutes, with neither team able to build more than a two-point lead, until the 14:41-mark, when Casnocha sank a pair from three-point land on consecutive possessions to give Amherst a 17-11 edge.
Casnocha sparked a 14-2 Amherst run over the next three minutes, capped by a long three-ball from Olson at 10:25.
Bates forced 10 Amherst turnovers – including two late steals from Ray (Bangor, Maine) –- to recover from the drought and play even with the Jeffs for the remainder of the half, but the Bobcats were unable to chip away at the Amherst lead. Amherst shot 60.0% (12-for-20), including 54.5% (six-for-11) from behind the arc, in the first stanza, while limiting Bates to just 37.9% (11-for-29) from the field and a 1-for-10 three-point shooting, for a 41-28 halftime advantage.
Ray tried to light the Bates fire after the break, converting a steal-and-score just 28 seconds in to cut the Amherst lead to 10, but Amherst battled back after missing their first four shots of the half to widen the gap to 19, 54-35, as Casnocha and junior Dan O’Shea (Lawrence, Mass.) converted on Olson helpers for three consecutive scores. Ray was a one-man force in the second half, putting away 26 points and snatching three steals, but Bates coughed up the ball 14 times and was outrebounded 40-31 in the game. Ray scored eight straight points to lead the Bobcats on a run down the strech, but any hopes of a comeback were dashed when Jeff sophomore Adolphe Coulibaly (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) hammered a two-fisted jam to put the Jeffs up by 19, 83-64.
Bedford added eight rebounds to his game-high 21 points, while Casnocha had four steals.
Ray finished with 30 total points on 11-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-10 from behind the arc, to go with six rebounds and five steals. His previous career high was 24 points, scored against Bowdoin on Dec. 6, 2005.
Stockwell added 17 points to go along with eight boards.
AMHERST COLLEGE 86, BATES COLLEGE 66
BATES COLLEGE (20-6)
Zak Ray 11-21 4-4 30; Rob Stockwell 8-18 0-0 17; Sean Cahill 3-5 2-2 8; Bryan Wholey 2-5 2-3 6; Matt Chudomel 0-3 3-4 3; Mark Westhuis 1-4 0-0 2; Pat Halloran 0-5 0-0 0; Damon McGinn 0-1 0-0 0; Scott Place 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-64 11-14 66.
AMHERST COLLEGE (24-2)
John Bedford 7-11 4-5 21; John Casnocha 6-9 4-6 20; Dan Wheeler 6-12 5-5 18; Andrew Olson 3-9 2-2 9; Dan O'Shea 2-3 3-4 7; Adolphe Coulibaly 1-1 1-2 3; Tim McLaughlin 0-1 2-6 2; Fletcher Walters 1-1 0-0 2; Ray Corrigan 1-1 0-0 2; Matt Goldsmith 0-2 2-2 2; Kevin Hopkins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-51 23-32 86.
Bates College................. 28 38 - 66
Amherst College............... 41 45 - 86
3-point goals-Bates College 5-28 (Zak Ray 4-10; Rob Stockwell 1-7; Bryan Wholey 0-1; Pat Halloran 0-5; Damon McGinn 0-1; Scott Place 0-2; Sean Cahill 0-2), Amherst College 9-18 (John Casnocha 4-6; John Bedford 3-3; Andrew Olson 1-1; Dan Wheeler 1-6; Matt Goldsmith 0-1; Tim McLaughlin 0-1). Fouled out--Bates College-Bryan Wholey, Amherst College-None. Rebounds-Bates College 31 (Rob Stockwell 8), Amherst College 40 (John Bedford 8). Assists-Bates College 3 (Sean Cahill 2), Amherst College 16 (Andrew Olson 8). Total fouls-Bates College 24, Amherst College 18. A-1000