Amherst College men cruise past Plattsburgh, reach NCAA Division III Sweet 16
AMHERST — The Amherst College men’s basketball team came out rested and focused for its 87-66 win over Plattsburgh State in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday.
The Jeffs, who had not played since Feb. 24 and had a first-round bye, outshot and outmuscled the young and inexperienced Cardinals (20-9). Amherst (26-2) used a 48.4 percent shooting performance to string together 17-3 and 20-5 runs and open up a first-half lead that grew to as large as 26 points.
Jeffs coach David Hixon said there was some level of concern about being rusty, but that his team’s opening sequence was the best it has looked all season.
“That first 15 minutes of basketball by our team was textbook,” he said. “It was terrific.”
Aaron Toomey, who scored a game-high 25 points and made 6 of 12 of his 3-point attempts for Amherst, agreed.
“We had a stretch there in the first half that was probably some of the best basketball we’ve played all year,” he said. “I think once we kind of got into the game and got our blood rushing again, the two-week layoff kind of just disappeared.”
The Jeffs took advantage of their size in the frontcourt and outrebounded the Plattsburgh 46-27, including a 16-7 margin on the offensive glass.
Amherst used that physicality to help set the tone and slow down the Cardinals’ offense that came in looking to push the tempo.
“I think we’re just a tough team as it is,” Allen Williamson said. “We all came out tough-minded and knew it’d be a physical game. The refs kind of let things go for a little bit, they let us play.”
Plattsburgh coach Tom Crule said the physical nature of the Jeffs’ play caught his team off guard.
“We ran into a team that was better than us today, is what it amounted to,” Crule said.
Williamson, who recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds, combined with David Kalema (15 points) off the bench for a number of show-stopping dunks that stirred up a packed LeFrak Gymnasium.
“There were seams in there, you know, places where we can get shots as a team and exploit them,” Kalema said. “I think we’re smart enough to kind of see how the game goes and feel it out (and) make adjustments.”
Amherst will play Randolph-Macon in the Sweet 16 on March 16. Randolph-Macon (21-9) beat RPI 79-68.
“I think our mind-set is, if we play our game no one out there can beat us,” Toomey said.