Contact: Mike O'Brien
AMHERST, Mass. – The eighth-ranked Amherst men's basketball team used a strong second half rally to surge past Hamilton, 91-73, in its NESCAC opener at LeFrak Gymnasium.
The win marked the Jeffs fourth straight over the Continentals, improving to 9-2 on the season and 1-0 in the NESCAC while dropping Hamilton to 7-6 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Amherst grabbed a commanding 16-point lead with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half but the Continentals went on a 19-4 run to cut the deficit to one and eventually entered the break trailing, 43-41. Hamilton carried that momentum into the second stanza and grabbed a five-point lead with 15:56 remaining in regulation but the Jeffs went on a run of their own and pulled ahead for the decisive 18-point win.
Aaron Toomey '14 posted a game-high 26 points and nine assists for the Jeffs. He was 12-for-13 from the charity stripe. Ben Pollack '16 scored a career-high 18 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting from the field and also tied a career-high with eight boards.
Three others joined them in double-figures. David Kalema '14, Tom Killian '14 and Connor Green '16 scored 15, 13 and 10 points, respectively. Kalema also tied a career-high with six rebounds while Green and David George '17 pulled in eight apiece.
Four Continentals scored double-digits with Matt Hart '16 leading the way, scoring 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Bradley Gifford '15 posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds while Joseph Lin '15 added 11 and Greg Newton '14 notched 10.
Both teams were 43.3% from the floor but Amherst outrebounded their opponent, 48-to-32, and shot 80.6% (25-31) from the foul line.
A three-pointer from Toomey at the 13:30 mark in the first half gave the Jeffs their first double-digit lead of the game as they lead 23-11. Both teams exchanged points a minute later until Connor Gach '14 hit consecutive shots from downtown to increase their lead to 16.
However, a jumper from Hart sparked a quick turnaround for Hamilton as they scored nine unanswered points in two minutes which lead to a 19-4 run. Going back-and-forth in the closing minutes, a lay-up from Gifford with 37 seconds remaining in the first half tied the game but Kalema retaliated with a lay-up of his own seconds before the buzzer as the Jeffs entered the break with a 43-41 lead.
Hamilton came out strong to start the second half and jumped out to a five-point lead, its biggest of the game, with under 16 minutes to play.
The lead was short lived for the Continentals as a lay-up from Pollack sparked an 11-0 Amherst run. From that point on, the baskets continued to drop for the Jeffs as they grabbed a 20-point lead with 41 seconds remaining following a jumper from Jacob Nabatoff '17. Amherst outscored Hamilton 48-32 in the second half and finished on a 43-20 run following the five-point deficit at the 15:56 mark.
Amherst returns to the court tomorrow, Jan. 11 and will host No. 5 Williams beginning at 4 p.m.