Amherst men advance to NCAA basketball quarterfinals with win over Randolph-Macon
AMHERST — It was another wire-to-wire blowout win in another tournament game Saturday for the streaking Amherst College men’s basketball team.
The Jeffs rode the continued hot shooting of Aaron Toomey and a second-half surge by Allen Williamson to a 93-76 win over Randolph-Macon College in the Sweet 16 of the Division III NCAA Tournament at LeFrak Gymnasium.
With the win, Amherst (27-2) advances to the quarterfinals where it will play Cabrini College (25-5) in Salem, Va., on Friday. The Cavaliers defeated the College of Wooster 70-63 Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets (21-10) had beaten two other teams at home to advance to the third-round game where they ran into a Jeffs team that has now won 21 consecutive games.
“I think Amherst is the best team we’ve seen in four years,” Randolph-Macon coach Nathan Davis said. “They’re so efficient offensively. If they’re open, it goes in. Whoever beats them — if somebody does — they’ll be a tough out.”
As was the case in its first tournament win over Plattsburgh State on March 9, Amherst wasted little time in establishing dominance on Saturday. Just four minutes, 48 seconds into the game, the Jeffs launched a 30-7 run behind an up-tempo offensive attack and flurry of 3-pointers.
Amherst shot 64.7 percent in the first half, including making 10 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc.
“With the lead we had, we knew we didn’t need to force anything,” said Aaron Toomey, who finished with a game-high 25 points and eight assists. “And we were trying to get good shots on every possession.”
The Jeffs got solid offensive contributions across the board as five players reached double-digits in scoring. Davis described the task of defending against the Amherst attack as a “pick your poison” dilemma.
“You stop this guy, we got that guy,” Jeffs coach David Hixon said. “You stop that guy, we got this guy. You know, it’s one of those things, and it’s worked for us.”
Williamson, who, after scoring only two points in the first half, broke out 13 after the break. In the opening minutes of the second half, he strung together an impressive slam dunk and back-to-back 3-point conversions at the foul line that helped shut the door on any attempt by the Yellow Jackets to steal momentum.
“In the first half I thought everyone was kind of getting going … so I was just trying to find the right shots and get open shots for everyone on the team,” Williamson said. “Second half, I just got a little bit more aggressive and started taking the ball a little harder and started finishing some shots.”
Andre Simon scored 20 points and Lamar Giggetts added 18 to help Randolph-Macon claw back within 15 points with 1:55 remaining, but it was too little, too late.
Connor Green scored 14 points for Amherst, while Willy Workman of Northampton and Peter Kaasila each added 10.
When the Jeffs head to Virginia for the quarterfinals, it will be their first game away from home since Feb. 12. But Hixon and his players said they are not concerned about the prospects of a road trip.
“I think our guys could play anywhere,” Hixon said. “I think we’re a pretty good road team, too. If it’s neutral for everybody, I’ll take that.”
“When we’re going to Salem, in our minds, it’s not really going on the road,” he said. “That’s where our goal was at the beginning of the year. I think we’re just happy that we’re here, and we’re going to work hard this week and just go down to Salem and try to get two wins down there.”