AMHERST, Mass. – Nathan Kill '18 hit the game-winner from deep with :01.7 left on the clock to lift the fourth-seed and nationally-ranked No. 14 Wesleyan men's basketball team to a thrilling 65-63 win over Little Three archrival and top-seeded Amherst on Saturday night in LeFrak Gymnasium. Krill posted a double-double with 29 points and 10 rebounds while hitting an incredible 7-of-11 shots from three-point range.
The Mammoths (17-9) had the ball up one with 37 seconds remaining. Following a missed basket by Joseph Schneider, a loose ball under the basket was eventually controlled by Jordan Sears '18 who dished it off to Krill. The senior forward, who had the hot hand all day, brought the ball down the court and tossed up the game-winner with just over six seconds left as it went through the net with :01.7 on the clock. On the ensuing inbounds, Johnny McCarthy heaved up a three-quarters length shot that hit the rim.
With the victory, the Cardinals (21-5) set a program record with 21 wins as they advance to the NESCAC Championship game tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. They will play the winner of second-seeded Williams versus third-seeded Hamilton. Amherst awaits its NCAA Tournament fate when the selection show airs on Monday, Feb. 26 at 12:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Saturday's matchup was the third meeting between the two archrivals this season as Wesleyan extended its win streak over the Mammoths to six-straight. It was the first meeting between the two programs in postseason play since the 2015 NESCAC Championship game in which Wesleyan claimed a thrilling 74-70 win in overtime.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- The first half featured a game of runs early on.
- The Mammoths came out hot to start the game and grabbed a 17-5 lead before a three-pointer by David Dixon '20 ended a 13-0 run by Amherst.
- The Cardinals trailed by as much as 16 with 11:08 remaining but rallied with a run of its own. Krill led the impressive comeback with 11 points and hit a three that evened the score at 24-24 with 6:54 remaining.
- Krill finished the half with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from downtown, as Wesleyan outscored Amherst 30-8 in the final 11:08 of action to take a 38-32 lead into the break.
- The Cardinals were an impressive 6-of-13 from three-point range in the first half and its stifling defense played a pivotal role in the incredible comeback.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
- The Mammoths slowly cut into the deficit in the opening minutes of the second half and with 11:31 on the clock, McCarthy hit a deep three-pointer to put the home team on top, 48-47.
- Shortly after, Michael Riopel hit another trey for the Mammoths as the momentum switched in the home team's favor with a 51-47 lead and 9:54 remaining in regulation.
- Trailing by six with 8:24 to play, Krill hit a floater in the paint to snap an 11-1 run by Amherst but Schneider responded with his own basket down low to force a Wesleyan timeout.
- With over three minutes remaining, Schneider made a great steal which led to a two-on-one fast break for Amherst. However, Sears was the lone Cardinal defender underneath the hoop as he sent Josh Chery's shot to the three-point line. Wesleyan regained possession and Sears was fouled on the other end where he hit a pair of clutch free throws to cut the deficit to two.
- Shortly after, Krill hit a fadeaway three in the corner to put the Cardinals back on top, 62-61.
- The lead was short-lived as Grant Robinson went strong to the basket just 22 seconds later for a layup.
- After some missed opportunities by both teams, Amherst took over with 46 seconds on the clock and called a timeout with 37 seconds left, which led to the thrilling finish.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Krill was joined in double-figures by classmate JR Bascom who dropped 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds. Sears finished with six points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two assists, and one steal. Kevin O'Brien '19 came off the bench and dished out five assists while pulling in 10 rebounds.
- Amherst was led by Riopel's 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while McCarthy added 14. Riopel also tied O'Brien for a game-high five assists. Schneider controlled the glass for the Mammoths with 10 boards, including nine points, three blocks, three steals and two assists.
- Wesleyan outrebounded Amherst 46-38. Saturday's game featured seven lead changes and three ties.
HEAD COACH JOE REILLY:
- "I'm proud of our team. They showed a lot of grit on the road. Nathan Krill really stepped up for us, his work ethic and team-first mentality as a senior leader has been fun to watch. We are excited to be playing on championship Sunday."