Men's Basketball | Freshmen shine as Jumbos stop skid
Haladyna and Palleschi help right the ship
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 08:12
For coach Bob Sheldon, recruiting players who can make an immediate impact is becoming a habit. Last year, it was C.J. Moss and Ben Ferris. This year, it’s Steve Haladyna and Tom Palleschi.
Nine games into their freshman season, Haladyna and Palleschi look right at home in brown and blue. On Tuesday night, they helped the Jumbos snap a three−game losing streak with a 79−63 win at Plymouth State.
Haladyna, a self−described slashing small forward who has become a super−sixth man much like Ferris was last year, scored 16 points on 5−of−6 shooting, his third double−digit scoring effort and the third time he’s played more than 20 minutes.
“I’m definitely embracing the [sixth man] role,” he said. “I’m just trying to come off the bench and bring energy.”
Meanwhile, the 6’8”, 250−pound Palleschi made his first start Tuesday and was omnipresent, matching a season−high six points and adding seven boards, four assists and three blocks.
“[Tom’s] been doing a bunch of everything,” senior co−captain forward Scott Anderson said. “We don’t need a guy who’s gonna get 15−20 points. ... Tom coming in and getting seven rebounds is a huge help.”
The freshmen’s big performances came at a crucial time for the Jumbos, who improved to 4−5 and bounced back from three straight non−conference defeats.
In a game of runs against the Panthers of the Little East Conference, the Jumbos pulled away late with a 14−4 burst in the second half to take a 13−point lead, which they protected for the final eight minutes.
Tufts shot a season−best 53 percent from the field and made a season−high 28 free throws, making 23. The Jumbos were paced by Anderson, who had a game−high 20 points and a team−high six assists.
Thanks to Anderson, Palleschi and senior center Matt Lanchantin, who was quiet Tuesday but is still averaging over five points and five rebounds, the Jumbos have developed a surprisingly formidable frontcourt after losing Alex Orchowski (LA ’12) to graduation.
On Tuesday, they were able to work the ball into the post against a smaller Panthers lineup, something they hope to do more often when the opportunity presents itself.
“We don’t usually get a lot of mismatches down low, but [Plymouth State] was small,” Anderson said. “We definitely have to exploit those mismatches when they’re there.”
In the backcourt, depth continues to be Tufts’ biggest asset. Ferris, Moss, Haladyna, junior Kwame Firempong and junior Oliver Cohen are all averaging five−plus points, allowing different players to steal the spotlight on different days.
On Tuesday, Haladyna was the one with the hot hand. He’s becoming an integral part of Tufts’ rotation.
“I’m really comfortable playing with these guys and the offense,” Haladyna said. “Coach [Sheldon] gives us a lot of freedom to make plays on our own, and we’re all really unselfish. We’re a well−balanced team.”
In their five losses so far, the Jumbos have struggled to play 40 minutes of consistent basketball. The team was not perfect on Tuesday, but Tufts did take a step in the right direction.
“There were some lapses,” Anderson said. “We probably played 26, 27 minutes the way we wanted to play. But I think overall it was a positive game.”
Still, for the Jumbos, there is work to be done.
With two non−conference games remaining this week before a three−week hiatus, the Jumbos would like to start their NESCAC schedule on Jan. 4 with a winning record.
After a tough stretch that included back−to−back losses against national No. 18 MIT, who were ranked No. 1 at the time, and No. 17 Illinois Wesleyan, Tufts will host a sub−par Lesley squad tomorrow before visiting 3−3 Suffolk on Saturday.
“We definitely need these ones,” Anderson said. “These two games coming up can’t be taken lightly.”