Men's Basketball: Warriors Take Down Amherst For Second Straight Season

Six-foot-eight inch sophomore Jake McCarthy defends against 6-foot-7 inch Amherst College junior C.J. Bachmann in the final minutes of Eastern's 95-92 victory Tuesday night at Amherst, MA.
Six-foot-eight inch sophomore Jake McCarthy defends against 6-foot-7 inch Amherst College junior C.J. Bachmann in the final minutes of Eastern's 95-92 victory Tuesday night at Amherst, MA.

AMHERST, Mass. -- Senior guard Tarchee Brown (Rockville) scored 21 of his game-high 31 points in the second half and the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team turned the ball over a season-low six times in a 95-92 non-conference victory over Amherst College Tuesday night at LeFrak Gymnasium.

After a layoff of nearly two weeks, Eastern (10-2) defeated Amherst (7-3) – a two-time national champion -- for the second straight season but for the first time in four games on the Mammoth's home court.

Eastern rallied from seven points down with seven minutes left with a run of eight straight points – five from senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic), who had just entered the game. Down by one, the Warriors scored five straight points to take a 94-90 lead with 14 seconds left, and survived four missed free throws over the final 20.4 seconds.

Brown split a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds left to give the Warriors a 95-92 lead, and Johnny McCarthy's open three-point attempt from the left side of the arc with two seconds left drew the front of the rim and time expired as the teams wrestled for the rebounds.

Amherst, five years removed from its second national title in six years, was beaten at home this year for the first time after four wins. The Warriors remained undefeated (5-0) on their opponent's home court this year and improved to 8-1 away from Geissler Gymnasium this year.

The first half proved to be a game of streaks. The Warriors prevented the hosts from running away in the opening minutes by reeling off ten points in a row over three minutes after falling behind, 16-8, to take an 18-16 lead with 11:33 left in the first  half. Just as quickly, Amherst countered with 13 straight over four minutes to move out to its largest lead, 29-18, seven minutes before the intermission. Minutes later, it was Eastern's turn again, with a 14-3 streak (holding Amherst without a field goal for five minutes) tying the game at 37-all with 1:30 left in the opening half.

With the score tied at 42-all, Brown blocked an inside attempt by C.J. Bachmann, but the stuff job ended up back in the hands of the 6-foot-7 inch junior, whose putback provided the hosts with a two-point halftime lead.

At left: Garett Day (5) and Joseph Schneider (24) of Amherst get a birds-eye view of Leonel Hyatt's breakaway slam early in the second half of the Warriors' 95-92 victory Tuesday night at LeFrak Gymnasium. Hyatt's dunk was set up on a pass from Carlos Gonzalez (1) and cut Amherst's lead to two points two minutes into the half. Hyatt contributed five points, five rebounds and a blocked shot in 25 minutes.

Eastern trailed through the first four minutes of the second half – but never by more than five points – before finally surging in front – albeit very briefly – on a steal and assist to a charging Brown by sophomore guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA). As expected, Amherst responded with a three-pointer from Michael Riopel and jumper by freshman Fru Che to make it 61-57 and later threatened to pull away when Riopel's bomb from distance off an Eastern miss made it 80-73 with 7:28 left.

Instead of folding at that point, Eastern grabbed the momentum for good with its eight-point run that allowed it to dig out of a seven-point hole. Brown sank one free throw after behind fouled on an offensive rebound, and Gonzalez converted a steal into two points to make it 80-76. Junior guard Donny Craig (Waterford)  then grabbed a rebound and got it to Brown, who fed a driving Marquez to made it 80-78. After Brown limped off the court with an injury sustained while forcing a turnover, Marquez swished a long two-pointer on an inbound pass to tie the game, and  sophomore forward Jake McCarthy's (Berlin) free throw following a defensive rebound from junior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) gave Eastern an 81-80 lead with five minutes left.

Brown's game-high point total – his second 30-point game of the year – moved him to within eight of establishing a program career record of 1,658 points. Against Amherst, he was 9-of-17 from the floor and added six rebounds and five assists. Gonzalez added season-highs of 18 points and ten assists along with six rebounds. Sophomore guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) came off the bench for 16 points, and Marquez chipped in ten points. The top four scorers were 11-of-24 from three-point range. The 6-foot-8 inch McCarthy contributed strong defense against the taller Mammoths and seven key points off the bench – his first scoring since the opening weekend.

Although Amherst had four starters taller than four of Eastern's starters, the Warriors had one more offensive rebound than the Mammoths (despite being ourebounded overall by 14) and held a 21-6 scoring edge in second-half chances. Eastern further negated Amherst's 57.1 field goal percentage by forcing 20 turnovers and outscoring the hosts off miscures by 14.

It marked only the second time in 16 seasons under head coach Bill Geitner that Eastern has won a game in regulation time when it allowed 90 or more points, following a 114-92 home victory over Mass College of Liberal Arts in the 2003 season-opener. Twice under Geitner, Eastern has allowed at least 90 points in triple-overtime victories over UMass Boston (112-108) on the road in February of 2004 and 116-114 at home against Westfield State University in November of 2004.

One of three unbeaten teams in the Little East Conference, Eastern looks for its third conference victory in as many games when it visits Massachusetts Boston (7-5, 1-1 LEC) Saturday at 3 p.m. The Warriors have won their first two LEC contests by a total of 77 points.