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Men's hoops to battle the odds, and Amherst, in NESCAC semifinal

AMHERST, Mass. -- The Bates men's basketball team will fight the odds and top-seeded Amherst on Saturday, when the Bobcats take on the Lord Jeffs in the semifinal round of the NESCAC Men's Basketball Championship.

Bates (13-12, 5-5 NESCAC) and No. 2 nationally ranked Amherst (23-2, 10-0 NESCAC) tip off at 5:30pm at Amherst's LeFrak Gymnasium, followed by the second semifinal of the day, Wesleyan (20-5, 7-3 NESCAC) against Middlebury (23-2, 9-1 NESCAC). The championship final is scheduled for Sunday at 2:30pm. All of the games will be available online via live video webcast and live stats.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Bobcats, who entered last weekend's NESCAC quarterfinals having lost six of their previous eight games, but also having won their regular-season finale, a 76-49 destruction of St. Joseph's College of Maine.

Bates' frontcourt combination of senior John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) and junior Ed Bogdanovich (Portland, Maine) has combined for 23.4 points and 16.9 rebounds per game this season, while junior guard Mark Brust (Duxbury, Mass.) has proven to be a lethal scorer at key times, leading to a 12.0 points per game scoring average.

The Lord Jeffs have four NESCAC titles to their credit, a figure matched only by Williams for the most in the conference, but they haven't raised the championship trophy since overcoming Tufts in an epic 2006 final. Amherst lost in the 2007 final by one point to rival Williams and fell in its most recent appearance in the Sunday showcase to Middlebury in 2009, the Panthers' first crown.

The Jeffs are led by the trio of senior Taylor Barrise (Allendale, N.J.), junior Willy Workman (Northampton, Mass.), and sophomore Aaron Toomey (Greensboro, N.C.). The three highlight an offense that ranks second among conference teams, scoring nearly 80 points per game. Toomey, the 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, ranks among the league leaders with 16.7 points (6th), 4.83 assists (2nd), and 1.88 steals per game (1st).

Amherst pulled away from Bates in the teams' regular-season meeting at Bates on Feb. 3, outscoring the Bobcats 34-23 in the second half for a 67-54 victory. Squires had one of his 12 double-doubles this season with 14 points and 12 boards, while Brust also netted 14. David Waller scored a game-high 19 points for Amherst.

See the NESCAC men's basketball semifinals preview story.