Second half surge leads #1 Amherst past men's basketball, 76-58

Jordan Cooper '18 (photo by Sportspix/Mike Tureski)
Jordan Cooper '18 (photo by Sportspix/Mike Tureski)

AMHERST, Mass. – The Brandeis men's basketball team closed to within two points early in the second half tonight, but top-ranked Amherst College scored 15 unanswered points and never looked back as the Purple and White claimed a 76-58 non-conference victory tonight in LeFrak Gymnasium. The Judges fall to 3-3 with the loss, while the Purple and White improve to 6-0.

It looked like the top-ranked hosts might put things away in the first half, as Amherst took a 28-16 lead on Eric Conklin's fast-break lay-up with 6:49 on the clock. The Brandeis defense clamped down at that point, holding the Purple and White to just one field goal the rest of the half. The Judges outscored Amherst, 11-2, with seven points coming from the free-throw line. Judge junior Jordan Cooper (Weston, Fla./Sagemont School) had six Brandeis points during the run, finishing with a game-high 13 first-half points. Jayde Dawson had 12 for the home team, hitting 4-of-6 3-pointers.

Cooper started the second half with a free-throw to make it a two point game. The squads traded buckets on the next four possessions, with a steal by senior Tim Reale (Mason, Ohio/St. Andrews School, R.I.) steal and assist to classmate Robinson Vilmont (Cambridge, Mass./Wilbraham and Monson Acad.) getting Brandeis within 34-32 at the 17:52 mark.

At that point, Amherst went on the decisive run of the game, holding Brandeis scoreless for the next four minutes and 50 seconds as they expanded the lead to 17 points. Amherst's Johnny McCarthy and Dawson each had five points in the run. The Judges were able to snap the Purple and White's momentum with a 3-pointer by junior Carlin Haymon (Boston, Mass. / Rivers School) that made it 49-35 at the 13:02 mark. Amherst put the game away with another 10-0 run that pushed their lead to 21 points and the hosts fended off the Judges the rest of the way. Amherst outshot Brandeis, 55% (18-33) to 33% (10-30) in the second half and owned a 24-13 rebounding edge after the break.

 For the game, Cooper led the Judges with 19 points. He hit 4-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range. He also finished 9-of-10 from the foul line. Reale added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from both the floor and the line. Cooper and Vilmont tied for team-high honors with seven rebounds each, while four Judges each had two assists. The Judges outscored Amherst, 18-7, from the free throw line, and forced 10 turnovers while committing just eight.

Amherst had three players score in double figures, paced by Dawson, who led all players with 20 points thanks to 7-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. McCarthy added 16 points and game-highs of nine rebounds and four assists, while Michael Riopel scored 13 points in 21 minutes off the bench. The hosts won the rebounding battle, 45-35, and made 11 3-pointers to six for Brandeis. Amherst also had nine blocked shots to just two for Brandeis.

The Judges close out the first semester at home on Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. against Becker College. Amherst hosts #2 Babson on Thursday in the premier matchup in Division III this season to date.