Men's Basketball | Jumbos fall short in high-scoring contest at Amherst
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 08:02
Despite a signature performance from senior co-captain Scott Anderson, who scored a career-high 35 points Saturday night, the Jumbos were unable to come away with a win against No. 10 Amherst, losing 100-89.
Coming into Saturday night’s matchup, Tufts had won eight in a row, including an impressive 78-57 romp over Trinity College on Friday night. Sophomore guard Ben Ferris had a game high of 23 points.
“Coming into the game, our confidence level was definitely high,” Anderson said. “But I also had to remind the team to stay confident, because we were still playing an Amherst team that has definitely won more than eight in a row.”
Despite their recent success, Tufts had not faced a ranked team since their 70-69 loss to No. 6 Middlebury on Jan. 5, and have yet to beat a top-25 team this season.
Still, with their record well above .500 at 14-8, the Jumbos’ matchup against 20-2 Lord Jeffs was the last against a ranked team before the conference tournament, which provided the perfect challenge.
“We’ve had some tough losses to some good teams early in the season,” freshman guard Stephen Haladyna said. “We were really looking for a big-time win, and even though we didn’t get it this time, we know we can get it next time we see them.”
While the team itself was excited for the chance to take down the top team in the NESCAC, the history between Anderson and Amherst gave the Tufts senior more than one reason to fight for the win.
“I kind of have a little vendetta against Amherst because, going back four years, I was considering playing there, and instead they screwed me over in the recruiting process,” Anderson said. “So it was kind of a personal thing for me, and, besides that, I knew if we won this, we had a chance at the three seed, so I was pretty pumped up to play.”
Anderson opened the game with the first three points for Tufts, putting a stop to a 6-0 Amherst run. From there, it was a back-and-forth affair, with Amherst managing to stay just ahead of Tufts thanks to 13 points in the first half from senior center Peter Kaasila and 10 from junior guard Aaron Toomey.
Anderson led all first-half scorers with 16 points to help keep the Jumbos within striking distance of the Lord Jeffs. They ended the half down 51-44.
“Sometimes against some of the top teams we played earlier in the season, they would go on a run and we would freak out a little bit, but this game showed how much we have grown,” Anderson said. “Offensively, the key to our success was working around and getting the best shots possible. Most of my baskets were layups off of passes from guys like Oliver [Cohen].”
The second half played out similarly to the first, with neither team able to get stops. Once again, Toomey and Kaasila led the way for Amherst, with 17 and 13 second-half points, respectively, despite the fact that Tufts was trying to key in on the two Amherst stars.
“Our number-one priority was stopping Toomey because
[in the] second half he really steps up and just always plays well,” Anderson said. “We knew we had to
stop him, but I guess that was easier said than done.”
Instead, the Jumbos, led once again by Anderson, who netted 19 points in the second stanza, and Haladyna, who scored 15 of his 17 in the second half, simply tried to keep pace with the Lord Jeffs’ high-powered offensive attack.
“I only took one shot in the first half, and I think it was just a matter of me trying to get my shot off more,” Haladyna said of his second-half explosion.
With Ferris hurt for part of the game, Haladyna knew he had to step up to help the Jumbos score.
“They are a really good offensive team, and we knew we had to be efficient on offense and get the ball down low and get to the line, and just to get as many easy shots as we could,” Anderson said.
While Tufts continued to keep pace with Amherst for most of the second half, tying the game at 78-78 with fewer than eight minutes to go, the Amherst offense proved to be too much for Tufts. Amherst went on a 22-11 run to close out the game and secure the win.
“Looking back, we might have gotten away from some of the ball movement we had in the first half, and there were some threes we took that we could have pulled back,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to do that in the moment.”
With the loss, Tufts drops to 6-3 in the NESCAC on the year. But with fourth place still locked up for the conference tournament, the team is already looking forward to the next time they see Amherst.
“They’re a really good team, and we’re really hoping we can see them again,” Anderson said. “We’re confident we will get them next time.”