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Three teams, one loss: Bantams, Jeffs coming

Rob Stockwell '07 leads the NESCAC in scoring (18.8 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg).

LEWISTON, Maine -- The last time Trinity College's men's basketball team visited Alumni Gymnasium at Bates College, the Bobcats began an unbeaten streak at home that continues to this day. Since Elliott Linsley's game-winning shot beat the NESCAC power Bantams on Feb. 12, 2005, Bates has won 17 consecutive games at home sweet home.

That streak will be put to the test this weekend, with the 11-1 Bantams scheduled to visit Friday night at 7, and No. 2 nationally ranked Amherst (12-0) to follow at 3 p.m. the next day.

Bates has risen to No. 12 in the latest D3Hoops.com poll, an indication of recognition that the Bobcats are one of only three unbeaten teams left in Division III (along with Amherst and Whitworth). At 11-0, they're off to their best start ever, and with two-time All-NESCAC teammates Rob Stockwell and Zak Ray about to enter the home stretch of their illustrious careers, the team feels there's no time like the present for Bates to show it belongs among the big boys.

Amherst, Bates and Trinity represent the top three teams in the NESCAC in average scoring margin, at +27.3, +20.5 and +15.2, respectively. Amherst and Bates are fourth and seventh, respectively, in scoring defense in Division III as of Jan. 7, at 55.9 and 57.9 (Bates' average dipped to 56.8 after Tuesday's 90-46 win over the University of New England). They're also both in the nation's top 20 in rebounding margin, with Bates leading the way at +10.7.

Zak Ray '07 leads the conference in assists (6.6 apg) and steals (2.91 spg).

Stockwell (Temple, N.H.) has played like the favorite for NESCAC Player of the Year since the season began. The 6-5 senior leads the conference in scoring (18.8) and rebounding (10.9), and is tied for fourth in field goal percentage at .561, all career-high numbers. Ray leads the NESCAC, and is ranked in the top 20 in Division III, in both assists (6.64) and steals (2.91) per game. Ray (Bangor, Maine) became Bates' all-time steals leader earlier this season, and he needs 62 more assists to tie Herb Taylor's 23-year-old school record of 498. Other key performers for the deep Bobcats include junior guard Bryan Wholey (Marshfield, Mass.), who's scoring 13.9 points per game, and junior guard Pat Halloran (Plymouth, N.H.), who hits 3-pointers at a .467 clip.

The Martin boys, 6-7 junior Russ and 6-2 senior Patrick, lead the Bantams. Russ is second in the NESCAC in both scoring (18.0) and field goal percentage (.590), while Patrick averages a healthy 5.8 assists per game. Senior guard Kino Clarke chips in 14.2 points per game.

Amherst is ranked No. 2 in Division III, and appears poised for another run at the national championship. The Lord Jeffs excel at both ends of the floor, ranking sixth in the nation in field-goal percentage (.515) and second in field-goal percentage defense (.355). Six different players have led the deep and balanced Jeffs in scoring already this season, with senior Tim McLaughlin the scoring average leader at just 11.0 points per game. The Lord Jeffs defeated the Bobcats in the semifinals of last season's NESCAC Championship, essentially preventing Bates from getting a berth in the NCAA Championship despite a landmark 20-6 season. Amherst advanced to the NCAA title game before losing out to Virginia Wesleyan. Two seasons ago, Amherst beat Bates in the NESCAC title game.

By Saturday evening, the Bobcats will have a clearer idea of where they stand in their quest for league and national prominence.