No. 3 men's hoops knocks off top-ranked Amherst, 72-62

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University men's basketball team put four starters in double figures as the Judges, ranked No. 3 in the nation by, never trailed in the second half as they upended No. 1 Amherst College, 72-62, in Red Auerbach Arena tonight.

Brandeis (8-1) and Amherst (6-1), playing in front of a packed crowd estimated at 1,750, played a back-and-forth affair in the first 20 minutes. The first half featured 9 ties and 7 lead changes, with the largest advantage at 27-23 for the visitors. Amherst took a 29-28 lead on a lay-up by senior forward Fletcher Walters with 1:51 left before intermission, but the hosts answered with 7 seconds on the clock. With the shot clock winding down, senior guard Kwame Graves-Fulgham (Amherst, Mass.) drove the lane for a lay-up and was fouled. He converted the free throw and the Judges took a 31-29 lead into the locker room.

In the second half, Brandeis opened the scoring with two Stephen Hill (Brighton, Mass.) free throws, but Amherst senior Andrew Olson answered with his first hoop of the game, followed by a Walters jumper to knot the game at 33-33 at 18:27. The Judges answered with hoops by junior Kevin Olson (Rockport, Mass.) and senior Joe Coppens (Rockland, Mass.) to go back ahead by four. After the teams traded hoops on the next four possessions, Brandeis had the key exchange. With the Judges leading 41-37 with 14:46 on the clock, Coppens scored six straight points, hitting a trifecta from the top of the key after a drive by sophomore Andre Roberson (Springfield, Mass.) and following with a traditional three-point play after a dish by senior Florian Rexhepi (Skopje, Macedonia) to put Brandeis up, 47-37.

The lead ballooned to as much as 16, 59-43 on another traditional three-point play by sophomore forward Terrell Hollins (Springfield, Mass.), but Amherst would not go away. The Lord Jeffs scored the next 11 points, getting within five, 59-54, at the 4:20 mark when Walters was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws.

Brandeis reclaimed momentum when rookie forward Christian Yemga (Yaounde, Cameroon) banked a 3-pointer off the glass with just five seconds left on the shot clock. That bucket sparked a 10-1 run over the next 3:19 that pushed the lead back to 14 points, as the Judges hit enough free throws to hang on for the 10-point win.

For the game, Brandeis was paced by Coppens, who scored 17 points on 5-of-10 from the field, 3-of-5 from downtown and four-of-five from the line. He also led the Judges with 5 assists and pulled down 7 rebounds. Hill was next in the scoring logs with 15 points, a career-high. Kevin Olson added 12 points, 8 in the first half, and Hollins finished with his third double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive glass. The Judges outscored Amherst, 22-8, from the free-throw line, and won a 19-9 advantage on points off turnovers. With the win, Brandeis snaps an 11-game losing streak against Amherst.

Amherst was led by Walters, who finished with 13 points, hitting five-of-six from the field and three-of-four from the line. Senior center Kevin Hopkins contributed 12 points, 6 in each half, after shooting 6-of-8 from the field. Andrew Olson, after a slow first half in which he had just 1 assist and 1 rebound with no points, finished with 9 points and 5 helpers. The Lord Jeffs shot 51 percent from the floor (25-49), including 57 percent in the second half (13-23).