ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Amherst College advanced into the Sectional Semifinals of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championships after posting a 75-67 victory over the University of Rochester at the Louis Alexander Palestra on Saturday evening.
The Mammoths will play Nichols College in the Sectional Semifinals next weekend. The other game in that foursome matches Randolph Macon College against Swarthmore College. The NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Committee will announce the sites for all four sectionals on Sunday.
Grant Robinson scored 17 points for Amherst. He made 5-10 from the floor, 3-6 three-point shots and all four free throws. He added six rebounds. Devonn Allen and Fru Che scored 12 points each. Eric Sellew had 10 points and Joseph Schneider scored nine. The Mammoths improved to 25-4 overall.
Brendan O'Shea scored 17 points for Rochester (21-6). He sank three of Rochester's seven three-pointers. Ryan Algier (Fairport) had 14 points. He had two dunks in a late-game rally that got the crowd of 964 back into the game. Andrew Lundstrom scored 13 points. Jacob Wittig had six points and eight assists.
Amherst made a determined effort to shut down Ryan Clamage and Patrick Benka. The two UR players combined for 37 points on Friday night when Rochester defeated Farmingdale State University, 85-68, to reach the second round. Clamage had 19 points vs. FSC and Benka hit six of eight outside the arc to score 18 points. At halftime against Amherst, both were scoreless. "Clamage is such a great player," Amherst coach David Hixon said.
The Mammoths by eight at halftime (38-30). The lead was 10, 44-34, in the second half before the shooting cooled off. Rochester ran off nine straight points – eight by O'Shea and a free throw from Alexander Gamble to pull within 44-43 with 14:57 left.
Amherst moved up by five, 48-43 after four straight points from Che, then maintained it for two possessions until UR charged again. Clamage scored on a layup and 90 seconds later, O'Shea made two free throws (53-52 with 10:32 to play).
It went to six, eventually to nine, 64-55, after Allen made 2-2 at the foul line. Wittig threw a lob to Algier who dunked and drew a foul on Sellew. He made the free throw with the crowd roaring (64-58). Schneider made one of two at the line before Algier dunked again and drew a foul. He missed the free throw. Schneider glided in for a layup to make it seven points and that – in essence was the difference for David Hixon.
"Both teams showed mental toughness," Hixon said. "Every time they made it close, we were able to make the plays. They didn't quite get over the hump."
"Coach said we need to rebound better," Robinson commented.
Allen scrapped for a number of rebounds down the stretch. He was credited with four, but was fouled several times and finished hitting 7 of 9 at the foul line. It wasn't a one-time performance. Hixon said Allen's work on the glass was imperative in late season conference wins and in the NESCAC tournament. "Devonn came up huge, getting every offensive rebound," he said.
Rochester coach Luke Flockerzi was an assistant under Hixon at Amherst in the early 2000s. "I told Luke before the game, and after it, that he's done a great job with this program," Hixon praised. "They run the same stuff we run," he said with a bit of a chuckle. "Sometimes, they run it better."
"It was high-level basketball," Flockerzi said. "I don't think we played our cleanest version. We played from behind most of the game."
Rochester commited 10 first half turnovers leading to 12 Amherst points. The Yellowjackets were a different team in the second 20 minutes. "We played with confidence," the coach said. He told them take care of the ball. "We had only two turnovers in the second half and we lost a lot of their defensive assignments."
For the second straight game, the crowd got behind the Yellowjackets, who dressed as the visiting team and sat on the visiting bench. "We make shots and they have our backs," said Lundstrom. "They helped keep us in it. I'm so proud of my team."