Springfield, Mass. - December 14, 2016 - The Springfield College basketball team knocked off the nation's top-ranked team in Amherst College, 71-70, in a thrilling non-conference victory in Blake Arena on Wednesday evening.
Amherst, which was ranked the No. 1 team in the latest D3Hoops.com National Poll, drops its first game of the season to fall to 8-1, while the Pride improved to 4-5. It marks the first time in Division III men's basketball program history that Springfield earned a win over the a top-ranked team in the country. Additionally, it is the fifth-straight season that Springfield has defeated a nationally-ranked team, a stretch that has included seven wins over teams ranked in the top 15, five of which were victories over teams in the nation's top 10.
Jake Ross (Northampton, Mass.) led the Pride with 21 points, 10 boards, three assists, and three blocks, while Heath Post (Cheshire, Conn.) chipped in 12 points and six boards. Kevin Durkin (Worcester, Mass.) produced 11 points and five boards, and Keegan McDonough (Bath, Maine) stuffed his stat line with nine boards, eight points, three assists, three steals, and a pair of blocks. The Pride shot 27-for-66 (40.9%) from the floor and outscored the visitors, 36-24, in the paint.
Johnny McCarthy (Medfield, Mass.) netted a game-high 25 points for Amherst, including seven buckets from beyond the arc, while Jayde Dawson (Montreal, Quebec) added 21 points and four assists. Amherst, which came into the game averaging nearly 85 points, was held to just 28 in the first half and finished the evening shooting 24-for-66 (36.4%) and 11-for-31 (35.5%) from downtown.
Both teams shot the ball well from deep to start as seven of the first eight baskets in the game were from beyond the arc. After Springfield earned an 11-9 lead when Andy McNulty (West Springfield, Mass.) drilled a three from the left wing at 14:52 mark, Dawson answered with a trifecta of his own at 13:05 to put the visitors back on top.
The Pride would put together a 9-0 surge over a 2:28 span to earn a 20-14 cushion when Durkin finished in transition, forcing the visitors into a timeout. Springfield's defense held tough and the Pride's lead grew to double digits at 26-16 when Post drilled a baseline jumper with 5:31 on the clock as the visitors burned another timeout. An inside finish out of the break by Ross gave Springfield a 28-16 lead, but Amherst answered back with 7-2 run to get within 30-23 thanks to a Dawson runner in the lane.
However, a three-pointer from Ross and a conventional three-point play by Post with under a minute to go allowed the Pride to earn its largest lead of the opening 20 minutes, a 37-25 cushion. McCarthy would later knock down a three at the horn to make it a 37-28 ballgame at intermission, with Ross leading all scorers with 13.
A jumper in the lane by Ross pushed the Pride's lead to 43-31 just over two minutes into the second half, only to have corner three from McCarthy cap off an 11-2 Amherst push to make it a 45-42 contest with 13:47. After Amherst clawed within two four different times, McDonough converted a tough finish in transition to make it a 57-49 game with 8:11 remaining. The hosts added to their advantage when Durkin made a great catch in the paint and finished strong to give the Pride a 64-54 lead as Amherst called for a timeout with 5:46 left.
When Amherst answered back with five-straight points out of the break, McNulty canned a corner three for the hosts to make it 67-59. Both defenses would clamp down, and Post added two from the stripe for a 71-61 lead with 2:30 to play. Amherst responded with five quick points from Amherst, including a corner three from Jeff Racy (Ridgefield, Conn.) make it 71-66 with 1:40 on the clock, which forced head coach Charlie Brock into a timeout. Amherst would miss four of six from the charity stripe before Eric Conklin (Scottsdale, Ariz.) finished inside to make it a 71-70 game with under 10 seconds remaining. Despite Ross missing two from the free throw line, the first-year came up with the play of the game, blocking McCarthy's three-point bid at the horn to seal the upset win.
The Pride will host the 30th annual Hampton Inn West Springfield/Naismith Classic on December 30-31 when it welcomes Elizabethtown, Connecticut College, and UMass Dartmouth to Blake Arena.