Men's hoops falls at second-ranked Amherst, 84-74

AMHERST, MA (taken from an Amherst College press release) - The Brandeis University men's basketball team gave second-ranked Amherst College their stiffest test of the season today, but the Judges could not overcome a 14-point halftime deficit before falling to the Lord Jeffs, 84-74. The loss snapped Brandeis's nine-game winning streak to start the season and their 11-game streak that dated back to last season, snapping the second-best start and overall winning streaks in University history.

Prior to today's game, Amherst had normally had a considerable lead midway through the first half, but after nine minutes of play junior Florian Rexhepi hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Judges a 15-14 lead. Amherst did not panic, as junior point guard Andrew Olson (San Diego, CA) converted on jumpers on two consecutive possessions to give the Jeffs a 20-16 lead with eight minutes remaining in the half.

Some Amherst foul trouble put Brandeis in double bonus with seven minutes remaining in the half, but the Judges failed to take full advantage of their opportunity to climb back into the game with free throws, as the Jeffs played smart defense the rest of the way and stepped up on offense with big plays. With six minutes remaining in the half, junior Fletcher Walters converted on a three-point play opportunity and followed up with a block on the other end. Three minutes later, junior Kevin Hopkins followed up on a missed Amherst lay-up and threw down a powerful two-handed dunk that sent the packed Amherst crowd into an uproar, giving the Jeffs some momentum heading into the locker room with a 39-25 lead.

The Judges began the second half with some hot shooting, but Amherst responded to every Brandeis attempt at a comeback with big plays of its own. Brandeis sophomore Kevin Olson opened the half with a runner off the glass to cut the lead to 12, but senior captain Tim McLaughlin responded by converting on a three-point play attempt. Kevin Olson came back with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 10, but Andrew Olson responded with a fade-away jumper to further prevent a momentum swing.

Brandeis hung with the Jeffs for the entire second half and never allowed the lead to grow too large. Even after a Walters dunk got the crowd going, the Judges quickly responded with a fast-break lay-up to keep the lead at nine, trailing 51-42 with 13 minutes remaining. Although the Judges never let the lead get out of hand, they did not have enough momentum to pull within range of Amherst, as the Jeffs played a consistent second half and held on to with their seventh game of the season, 84-74.

Olson, Walters and Hopkins each finished in double digits for Amherst, scoring 15, 16 and 15 points, respectively, while sophomore Brian Baskauskas added 14 points of his own. Olson added nine assists, Hopkins added four blocks and six rebounds, and Walters and Baskauskas pulled down six and seven rebounds, respectively.

The leading scorer on the night was Brandeis junior tri-captain Steve DeLuca, who totaled 30 points for the Judges and added eight rebounds. Olson and Amherst-native Kwame Graves-Fulgham also scored in double digits, scoring 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Brandeis suffers its first loss of the season, making their 9-1 start tied for the second-best in school history with the 1972-73 Judges. Brandeis was unable to match the 1956-57 squad that started 10-0.