By PETE DIVITO
AMHERST, Mass.–Nichols College Senior Marcos Echevarria scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half as No. 14 Nichols College stunned No. 7 Amherst 62-58 to advance to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday night at LaFrek Gymnasium on the campus of Amherst College.
After struggling to beat a constant double-team throughout the first half (2-of-5 FG), he exploded for five 3-pointers in the second half as the Bison (28-2) stormed back from a nine-point second-half deficit to run their win streak to 17 games and move to within one game of the first Final Four in program history.
Junior Jerome Cunningham filled the stat sheet with seven points and a game-high 14 rebounds for Nichols while classmate DeAnte Bruton had 11 of his 16 points in the second half. The Bison shot 42 percent from the field (23-of-55) and banged in six triples in the second half.
Sophomore Matt Morrow scored the first six points of the contest for NC and finished with 10 points, six boards, and two assists.
Junior Eric Sellew posted a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Mammoths (25-5) while freshman Devonn Allen netted 14 points (4-of-6 three-pointers). Amherst was cold from behind the arc, finishing just 5-of-22 from downtown, and saw its five-game win streak snapped.
The game was tied at nine at the second media timeout as both schools played lock-down defense. Morrow was 3-for-3 from the floor and led all student-athletes with six points while four different Amherst players had two points. Nichols moved ahead by four (13-9) on baskets from senior Josiah Kimball and Bruton before a dunk from Cunningham right before the third media timeout put the Bison ahead 16-14.
Amherst responded with a 9-2 run to take a 23-18 lead. Echevarria’s second field goal of the half with :02 on the clock tied the game at 26 at the break; Morrow led all scorers with 10 points while Garrett Day had nine off the bench for the Mammoths. The Bison shot 39 percent from the field and were 0-for-6 from downtown, but held Amherst to 37 percent shooting.
The Bison fell behind by nine (39-30) in the second half before three triples from Echevarria sparked a 19-8 Nichols run and put it up two (49-47) with 7:00on the clock. Two more three’s from Echevarria pushed the lead to 54-47 with 2:32 remaining, but a pair of baskets from senior Joe Schneider helped cut the Mammoths deficit to one (59-58) with 36 seconds remaining.
After Echevarria made one of two at the line at the other end, Amherst had two chances to tie or win the game. Sophomore Grant Robinson missed a three for the Mammoths, then Schneider missed a layup and the loose ball went to the home team on the possession arrow. With five seconds left, Day missed a three from the right side, the Bison secured the rebound, and Echevarria made a pair from the line with one second remaining.
Three things you need to know…
- The men’s basketball team is the first program in Nichols College history to win three NCAA Tournament games in the same season.
- Echevarria extended his NCAA record of games with at least one three-pointer to 104. In the process, he moved into third-place on the all-time list at the Division III level with 476. He also surpassed the 2,500-point mark for his career and now has 2,507 – good for 17th place in NCAA Division III history.
- Nichols finished the 2018-19 a perfect 5-0 against teams from the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
Pete DiVito is sports information director at Nichols College.