WORCESTER, MA – It was Skidmore College’s first time in the NCAA Division III Men’s basketball tournament and certainly, they had a lot of pre-game jitters, which allowed Amherst College the opportunity to take advantage of the Thoroughbreds weakness and score constantly, as well as finish 40-minutes of playoff basketball with a 79-39 victory.
“We picked a bad time to not play well,” said Skidmore College head coach Joe Burke. “A lot of the credit goes to Amherst. I think they’re a terrific basketball team. We knew we were going to have to bring our A-game and I felt like we just didn’t do that.”
“I think the reason we had an edge [in this particular game] was because we played so hard,” said Amherst College head coach David Hixon.
Skidmore jumped out to an early 7-2 lead before Amherst ramped up their offense to go on a small run, which would eventually give them a sizeable lead that they never gave up en route to their first tournament win.
“We were opportunistic early, I thought [Amherst] missed some shots. I’ll be honest with you, we were up 7-2 and I didn’t feel good about it because of the shots we were missing. I think physically they opposed their will [on us] and we had a difficult time matching it,” said Burke.
“I think we just got the jitters out,” said Amherst College junior guard Conor Meehan. “We’re a young team still and a lot of people haven’t played a game in a NCAA game of this magnitude before, so to just get the butterflies out and start making shots, get used to the atmosphere of the floor, we’ve never played [at WPI this season]. Once we got used to that, settled down and executed, we were fine.”
The Lord Jeffs offense connected on 32 of their 68-shots from the field and relied on Meehan, who finished the game with 15-points, five assists and one steal, as well as freshman guard Aaron Toomey, who launched six three-pointers and converted on four of them.
Amherst also took advantage of their size to score 34 of their 79-points in the paint, which was something Skidmore College’s coaching staff didn’t like, as they watched the Thoroughbreds defense struggle immensely.
“Our goal was to try and eliminate their paint points,” said Burke. “You have to pick your poison with them, [Amherst] has very good players.”
The Lord Jeffs though produced points on offense, but also, displayed their electricity on defense too, as they forced the Thoroughbreds to turn the ball over 14 times, as well as blocked eight shots.
“I like to think what we do defensively really helps us. We’ve shut a lot of teams down this year and we did that tonight, which is good,” said Dixon.
With an impressive opening round win, Amherst will return to the same court on Saturday to face Worcester Polytechnic Institute for a 7:00pm eastern match. Although, with the first tournament win under their belts, but the coaches and players seemed rather content after the game.
“I thought we executed pretty well, played hard, rebounded like we wanted to rebound,” said Meehan. “To win by the margin we did was great for us.”