No. 14 Wesleyan to Play Little Three Rival Amherst in NESCAC Semifinals Saturday

Photo by Steve McLaughlin
Photo by Steve McLaughlin

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – Wesleyan (20-5)—seeded fourth in the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championships and ranked No. 14 nationally—will play at top-seeded Amherst (17-8) this Saturday, Feb. 24 in the conference semifinals beginning at 5:30 p.m. in LeFrak Gymnasium. The winner of Saturday's showdown will advance to the finals where they will face the winner of No. 2 Williams (20-5) versus No. 3 Hamilton (22-3) on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

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Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for students/seniors, and free for children two and under. Tickets will go on sale at noon at the outdoor entrance to LeFrak Gymnasium, between Alumni Gym and Orr Rink. Doors to the game will open at 5 p.m. Both semifinals and the championship game will be webcast via NSN at NESCAC.com. Streams are also available through Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV (search for NESCAC).

AT A GLANCE: NO. 4 WESLEYAN   

  • The Cardinals used a second-half rally to defeat No. 5 Middlebury, 73-65, in the quarterfinals. Kevin O'Brien '19 and Jordan Sears '18 led the team in the final 20 minutes of play as O'Brien scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Sears was a force defensively with four blocks in the final 2:42 of regulation. He finished with a career-high eight.
  • Wesleyan returns to the semifinals for the first time since 2015—the year the Cardinals defeated Amherst in the finals as the No. 6 seed for their first-ever conference title. It's their fifth semifinal appearance all-time.
  • The Cardinals boast one of the top defenses in the country and lead all of Division III in field goal percentage defense as opponents hit just 36.4-percent of their shots. Additionally, Wesleyan ranks No. 2 in the nation in blocks per game (5.9) and total blocks (147), and are allowing just 63.5 points per game which ranks 11th in the country.
  • Sears leads the defensive efforts with 2.0 blocks per game (third-best in the NESCAC) and 1.5 steals per game (tied for fifth-best in the league).
  • Offensively, three players average double-digit points for Wesleyan as junior guard Jordan Bonner leads the way with a team-high 15.7 points per game. Freshman guard Austin Hutcherson is averaging 11.6 points per game and senior forward Nathan Krill scores 11.5 points per game. Krill also ranks second in the conference in rebounding (8.8), while O'Brien ranks seconds in assists (5.8).
  • The Cardinals are 7-10 in 12 NESCAC Tournament appearances with one title.

AT A GLANCE: NO. 1 AMHERST

  • The Mammoths are the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2014, the same year they won their seventh NESCAC title.
  • In the quarterfinal round, Amherst was able to erase an 11-point deficit over the final 10 minutes of the game to pull out a 71-70 victory over No. 8 Bowdoin. Senior Johnny McCarthy netted 10 points down the stretch and sophomore Josh Chery converted a lay-up with three seconds left to lift Amherst to the victory.
  • The Mammoths missed the semifinals last year, but are back for the seventh time in eight seasons.
  • Senior Michael Riopel leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points per game. He has drained 49 3-pointers and is shooting 42.2-percent from long range. McCarthy ranks second on the team in scoring (11.8) and leads Amherst on the boards, averaging 7.8 rebounds per contest.
  • The Mammoths own the best rebounding margin in the league at +11.5 and rank second overall in rebounds per game (45.5) and field goal percentage defense (37.2).

SERIES HISTORY:

  • The Mammoths and Cardinals met twice during the regular season with Wesleyan posting a 2-0 mark, winning 70-66 at Amherst and 71-57 in Middletown, Conn.
  • Amherst is 126-80 all-time against the Cardinals but Wesleyan has won five straight and six of the last seven meetings.
  • The Mammoths own a 2-1 record versus Wesleyan in the NESCAC Championship series.
  • The two teams last met in the 2015 championship game, which the Cardinals won, 74-70.

-- Preview courtesy of the NESCAC --