NESCAC Final: No. 3 Amherst 62, No. 2 Hamilton 56

NESCAC Final: No. 3 Amherst 62, No. 2 Hamilton 56

Courtesy of Amherst Sports Information

CLINTON, N.Y. – Amherst clinched the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship for a record eighth time with a 62-56 victory over Hamilton College on Sunday.

The No. 3 Mammoths (23-4) knocked off No. 2 Hamilton (23-4) to complete their run to the championship and capture their first title since 2014. Amherst also clinches the NESCAC automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, ensuring their 20th appearance in the national dance.

Eleven days after Hamilton defeated the Mammoths 81-77 on the same court to prevent Amherst from getting the top seed in the postseason, the Mammoths returned the favor by holding the Continentals to their lowest scoring game of the year, nearly 30 points under their season average.

In the three-game playoff run, Amherst held its opponents to just 60.33 points per game. They are among the leaders in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.6 points per game on the year.

The defensive efforts forced the Continentals into just 3-for-18 shooting from behind the 3-point line (16.7%). On the offensive end, Fru Che and Grant Robinson led the Mammoths with 16 points apiece. Che had eight rebounds while senior Joseph Schneider grabbed 10 boards as Amherst led 48-37 on the glass, including 15-9 on the offensive side.

Schneider also had three blocks on the day and finished the tournament with 11 rejections, one shy of the NESCAC tournament record. Robinson handed out four assists and grabbed two steals and Che scooped eight boards and had two rejections.

The Mammoths led by one with 4:40 but opened up a seven-point advantage after Che and Devonn Allen connected on 3-pointers on subsequent possessions.

Allen scored 14 points and added six rebounds, two steals, and an assist in the win. He and Che hit three 3-pointers apiece for Amherst, who went 7-for-21 from downtown. C.J. Bachmann came off the bench to score 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting as Amherst shot 36.4 percent for the game.

Hamilton was led by 15 points from Peter Hoffmann and 13 points from Kena Gilmour. Gilmour and Michael Grassey each grabbed nine rebounds and each barely missed a double-double, as Grassey scored 10 points as well.

Hamilton's Mark Lutz was fouled taking a 3-pointer with 1:30 left to play and knocked down all three attempts to pull the hosts back to within four. After a block by Nick Osarenren, Hoffman grabbed an offensive rebound and made a layup and the difference was two points with a minute to play.

Hamilton forced an offensive foul and got the ball back with a chance to tie, but the Amherst defense forced a missed layup by Gilmour and Bachmann grabbed the loose ball. Garrett Day and Robinson were 4-for-4 from the foul line down as Amherst held on to claim the title.

Che was 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from downtown in the first half when Amherst shot 43 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three. The Mammoths held the largest lead of the game, nine points, with two and a half to play before the break, and were up 36-31 when the teams went to the locker room.

Amherst did not trail in the second half, though Hamilton got to within a point on two occasions, the first at 43-42 when a Hoffman layup capped an 11-3 run at the 13:17 mark and again when Amherst led 52-51 at the four-minute mark.

Hamilton was looking for its first NESCAC title and in its first championship game. The Mammoths won three straight championships from 2012-2014 and were national champions in 2013.