Men’s Basketball Wins Little Three Title with Thrilling 73-72 OT Win on the Road Against No. 8 Amherst

Photo by Jonas Powell '18
Photo by Jonas Powell '18

THE BASICS:

Score: Wesleyan 73, Amherst 72 (OT)
Records:
Wesleyan (17-5, 4-4 NESCAC); Amherst (16-5, 6-2 NESCAC)
Location: Amherst, Mass.
Date: Tuesday, February 7
Time: 7 p.m.
The Lead: Jordan Bonner '19 knocked down a three-point buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, and then hit the game-winning free throws to help guide the Wesleyan University men's basketball team to a thrilling 73-72 OT win on the road against No. 8 Amherst College Tuesday night in non-conference action. With the win, the Cardinals snapped Amherst's 32-game home winning streak and claimed the Little Three title outright.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The first 20 minutes of action featured back-and-forth play throughout, with the largest margin a seven-point Amherst lead at the 7:57 mark.
  • Trailing 23-16, Wesleyan went on a 6-0 run with three-point plays from Kevin O'Brien '19 and Nathan Krill '18, respectively.
  • With 3:05 to play in the half, a lay-up by O'Brien knotted the game at 26-26. Seconds later, the sophomore forced an Amherst turnover and a jumper by Harry Rafferty '17 gave the Cardinals their first lead since just under 13 minutes to play.
  • A lay-up by Joseph Kuo '17 with 1:01 remaining in the half proved to be the final basket of the first as Wesleyan held a 30-29 advantage at the break.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Cardinals came out hot to start the second half as they went on a 13-0 run to go ahead by 14.
  • Wesleyan's defense held Amherst scoreless for the first 7:53 of the second until a lay-up by Eric Conklin broke the scoreless streak at the 12:07 mark.
  • After back-to-back baskets by the Cardinals extended their lead to 16, the Purple & White rallied with a 13-0 run to cut the deficit to three with 8:13 remaining.
  • Amherst got within one on three occasions until finally tying the game at 53-53 after a pair of free throws from Reid Berman at the 4:50 mark.
  • With 1:42 to play, Kuo had an open look to the basket and threw down a two-handed dunk. However, Michael Riopel responded with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two.
  • Amherst went on a 5-0 run to go ahead 65-62 with :05 on the clock, but a clutch buzzer-beater by Bonner sent the game into overtime.

OVERTIME HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Rafferty hit a three-pointer for the first basket of the extra period, and a tip-in by Jordan Sears '18 on Wesleyan's next possession put the visitor's up by four.  
  • Amherst, however, regained the lead after a fast break lay-up by Jayde Dawson off a Wesleyan turnover put the home team ahead, 72-71 with 1:30 to play.
  • With :45 remaining on the clock, Bonner hit a pair of free throws to give the Cardinals a 73-72 lead.
  • Both teams struggled from the free throw line down the stretch, and a desperation heave from Johnny McCarthy with time running out was no good as Wesleyan held on for the thrilling victory.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Bonner finished with a game-high 19 points and pulled in 10 rebounds to complete the double-double. He was joined in double-figures by O'Brien and Rafferty with 18 and 15 points, respectively. Rafferty also dished out a game-high six assists, while Kuo finished with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
  • Three players scored in double-figures for Amherst as well, with Dawson leading the way scoring a team-high 17 points. Riopel added 16 and nine rebounds, and McCarthy dropped 11 and pulled in eight boards. David George led all players with 11 rebounds, while also scoring eight points and blocking five shots.
  • Tuesday's non-conference matchup featured 10 ties and eight lead changes.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:

  • The Cardinals, who shared the Little Three title with Amherst a year ago, won it outright for the first time since the 1990-91 season and the 15th time overall.
  • Wesleyan snapped Amherst's 32-game home winning streak, and handed the Purple & White just its sixth home loss in the past seven seasons (100-6 record since 2010-11).
  • Additionally, the Cardinals have now won four of the past five meetings against their archrival, and defeated Amherst earlier in the season at home, 73-59 to sweep the Purple & White for the first time since the '90-91 season.
  • Tonight's win was Wesleyan's third against a top-10 team this year.

HEAD COACH JOE REILLY:

  • "I'm very proud of our effort on the road, it was a big response after a very tough two point loss to Williams last weekend. This was our 10th road game in the past 14 games... Our guys have learned to find ways to win when faced with adversity.
  • "It was a great win for our program - an outright Little Three Championship was one of our main goals at the start of the season."

UP NEXT:

  • The Cardinals wrap up the 2016-17 regular season schedule this weekend at home as they host Bowdoin Friday night at 7 p.m. and Colby on Saturday at 3 p.m.  
  • Amherst is on the road to wrap up the regular season and will play at No. 13 Middlebury Friday night at 7 p.m. and at Hamilton on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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