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No. 5 Wesleyan Falls to No. 1 Amherst in NESCAC Semifinals, 58-31

Photo by Geoff Bolte, Clarus Studios
Photo by Geoff Bolte, Clarus Studios

AMHERST, Mass. – The fifth-seeded Wesleyan women's basketball team came out strong Saturday afternoon against top-seeded and nationally-ranked No. 1 Amherst, but the defending national champions' stifling defense was too much to overcome as the Mammoths pulled away with a 58-31 win in the NESCAC Semifinals at LeFrak Gymnasium.

The Cardinals (17-8)—ranked No. 8 in the Northeast Region—await their NCAA Tournament fate when the selection show airs on Monday, Feb. 26 at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. The Mammoths (26-0) claimed their 59th-consecutive win as they advance to the NESCAC finals tomorrow at noon against the winner of second-seeded Bowdoin versus third-seeded Tufts.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The first quarter featured a tough, defensive battle as the two teams combined for just 23 points with the Cardinals coming out strong against the defending national champs.
  • Wesleyan was terrific on the boards in the first 10 minutes, specifically on the offensive side.
  • After some back-and-forth action through the first, a pair of free throws by Tara Berger '19 with just 00:17 on the clock cut the deficit to one entering the second, 12-11.
  • It was a different story early in the second quarter as the Mammoths opened on a 6-0 run to force a Wesleyan timeout at the 7:51 mark.
  • Amherst's stingy defense continued to pose problems for the Cardinals as they held them scoreless for the first 5:40 of the second when Berger snapped Amherst's 10-0 run with a nifty post move down low.
  • Emma McCarthy put the home team ahead by 14 with a layup at the 00:37 mark as the Mammoths took a 30-16 lead into the break.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The momentum from the second quarter carried over into the third as Amherst continued to apply heavy pressure defensively as it saw its lead increase.
  • Wesleyan held the Mammoths scoreless for the final 1:37 of the quarter but trailed 47-24 entering the fourth.
  • Amherst, for the third consecutive quarter, held Wesleyan to single-digits as it cruised to the 27-point victory.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • Berger posted a double-double with a team-high 12 points and 10 rebounds. She also blocked three shots. Senior forward Maddie Bledsoe—the league's top rebounder—finished with a game-high 12 boards while scoring eight points and dishing out two assists. Emma Roush '21 scored five points off the bench.
  • Three players scored in double-figures for Amherst as Madeline Eck and Jackie Nagle each dropped 12. Hannah Hackley—who registered her 1,000th career point in today's game—finished with 11. Eck, Nagle and Emma McCarthy grabbed seven rebounds apiece. Nagle was a force down low as she blocked seven shots as well.
  • Despite the loss, Wesleyan forced 17 turnovers while turning it over just 14 times against the nation's top defense.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:

  • Wesleyan is now 5-13 all-time in 13 NESCAC Tournament appearances.
  • The Mammoths improve to 30-8 in 16 appearances and seek their eighth conference title tomorrow.
  • Today's matchup was the first between the Cardinals and Amherst in the NESCAC Championships since the 2010 season when the Mammoths claimed a 57-36 victory.
  • It was also the third meeting between the Little Three rivals this year.