Men's Basketball | Jumbos hit stride as win streak increases to six
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 01:01
The Tufts men’s basketball team has picked the right time to get hot.
After a 6-5 start to the season, the Jumbos dropped consecutive NESCAC games against Williams and Middlebury at the beginning of the year, and the team was in need of a spark to resurrect its season.
Led by the emergence of six-foot-eight freshman center Tom Palleschi and sixth man freshman guard Stephen Haladyna, the Jumbos have put together a six-game winning streak, five against conference rivals. On Saturday, Palleschi’s 19 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks proved to be crucial in the Jumbos’ road victory over Bates. Coach Bob Sheldon’s squad struggled early on to keep up with the Bobcats’ up-tempo offense and scrappy defensive play. After an even first five minutes of the game, the Bobcats went on a 15-1 run to take a 14-point lead midway through the first half.
“We knew we needed to get out to a strong start against Bates, knowing that they were a high-energy team and the crowd was only going to get bigger as the game progressed,” senior co-captain Scott Anderson, who contributed 15 points and three rebounds in the victory, said. “We really harped on coming out strong coming into the game, but that being said, talk is cheap, and we just didn’t step up to the plate in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
Tufts, however, managed to claw its way back. A 3-pointer by junior co-captain point guard Kwame Firempong cut the Jumbo deficit to eight with 3:32 remaining in the first half. Anderson followed the triple with a layup, and another 3-pointer by sophomore guard Ben Ferris cut the Bates lead to seven at the break.
“We turned it around on defense,” Anderson said. “They were getting a lot of wide-open layups in the beginning of the game off fast breaks. Once we limited those opportunities and stopped them from getting into the middle of the lane in the half court, we started to inch our way back.”
The second half was far closer, as the Jumbos brought themselves within three points just two minutes into the second half. The rest of the game was a back-and-forth affair until late in the period, where a three-pointer from Firempong and a three-point play by Ferris on consecutive possessions gave the Jumbos a six-point lead with 1:30 left. The Bobcats were unable to claw back from there, and Tufts took the victory 74-67.
“The scouting report was to execute our ball screen defense well, which we adjusted at the half, and it turned out to work very well,” Ferris said. “We also knew it was going to be a hectic environment. We slowed them in the second half by playing some zone defense which threw them off.”
Haladyna put together another fine performance, accumulating 10 points and two rebounds on 2-4 shooting from downtown, while Ferris added 15 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
“Tom and Stephen have been incredible in recent games,” Ferris said. “They do everything very efficiently. They have very few flaws in their game, which is outstanding considering they’re freshmen. I’m excited that they’re playing well because they’re certainly an integral part of the offense now.”
With the victory, the Jumbos improve to 12-7 overall and now sit fourth in the NESCAC. This week, Tufts will take on UMass-Boston in a non-conference matchup before going back on the road next weekend for crucial conference games against Trinity and No. 14 Amherst.
“Our focus in practice is always for the next game ahead of us,” Anderson said. “While I’m sure the coaches will harp on Amherst a little bit even starting Monday, we’re trying to take games one at a time and focus most on UMass Dartmouth, Trinity, then Amherst.”