Oliver Rothman ’16 Staff Writer
On Saturday afternoon the defending Division III’ national champion Amherst Men’s Basketball Team faced off with the Bantams of Trinity College in the Ray Oosting gym. Entering the game, Amherst displayed quite the resume, including the sixth ranked spot in Division III Men’s Basketball and an eight game winning streak. Also, the defending Division III national player of the year happened to be Amherst’s starting point guard, Aaron Toomey. However, Trinity was coming off of a two-game winning streak of their own, including a ten point victory over Tufts in an important NESCAC conference game. From the tip-off, the game was a defensive battle as both teams shot below forty percent from the field.
After trailing 21-11 with 7:40 minutes left in the first half, Trinity went on a 13-6 run, cutting Amherst’s lead to three with three minutes remaining in the half. This run was highlighted by point guard, Jaquann Starks ’16, as he contributed nine of the thirteen points during the run. Starks sparked the run with a floater, along with junior center and co-captain, Georgios Papadeas ’15, as he followed it up with one of his own. After the first half, the scoreboard read 32-26 in favor of Amherst.
The Amherst Jeffs came out after halftime and regained their double-digit lead with fourteen minutes left in the second half. However, sophomore forward Shay Ajayi ’16 led the Bantams on a run as he scored six unanswered points on a three point shot followed by three free throws as he was fouled behind the three point line during the next possession. Then, with twelve minutes remaining in the game, guard Rick Naylor ’16 came off of the bench and hit a three pointer, cutting the Jeffs lead to five. However, the Jeffs quickly answered as they went on a 12-3 run, extending their lead to fifteen points with less than ten minutes remaining in the game.
After a Trinity timeout, the Bantams were able to pull within seven points of the defending national champions on an offensive rebound put back by freshman forward Ed Ogundeko ’17. This was part of a stretch late in the second half, where Trinity’s defense stifled Amherst, allowing no points and causing four turnovers in a span of four minutes. Unfortunately, there was not enough time on the clock for the Bants to climb back from the fifteen point deficit as the final score read 67-61 in favor of Amherst.
Starks led the Bantams with eighteen points, followed closely by Shay Ajayi ’16’ as he contributed seventeen of his own. Starks also led the team with four assists. Ogundeko led the Bantams with nine boards, as Amherst could not keep him off of the glass.
The Bantams managed the game well, even when they were down by double digits. Trinity out-rebounded the Jeffs, (41-38.) Trinity also had more second chance points and more bench points than Amherst. Trinity also shot higher percentages than Amherst from behind the three-point arc and free throw line.
With the loss, the Bantams fall to a record of 11-7 and 3-2 in conference play. They look forward to playing five of their next six games within the NESCAC, as each game will be a pivotal battle as the playoffs loom in the near future.
At this point last year, the Bantams posted an 8-11 record, ending with and overall 9-15 record. As evidenced when comparing this year’s record to last year’s, the team has grown into a serious playoff contender and hopes to end the year on a run. For their next game, the Bants look to rebound from this loss on January 31 at Bowdoin, followed by another NESCAC contest at Colby on February 1.