Men's Basketball | Jumbos squeak out 65-64 overtime win against Clark
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 12:02
With the fourth seed in the NESCAC tournament and a home quarterfinal game already locked up, the Tufts men’s basketball team faced off against non-conference rival Clark University on Monday night, a team that has beaten the Jumbos in each of the past three seasons.
In a game that featured seven ties and 13 lead changes, the Jumbos were victorious against the Cougars in their first overtime contest of the season, improving their overall record to 15-8.
While much of the game was a back-and-forth affair, Clark took a 3-point advantage with 1:23 left in the second half following consecutive baskets by graduate students Brian Vayda and D.J. Bailey. On the next possession, junior co-captain guard Kwame Firempong, recently inserted back into the starting lineup, knocked down the game tying 3-pointer, his only made field goal of the game, as the shot clock expired to send it into overtime.
In the extra five minutes, Tufts knew its defense would be vital in securing a victory.
“We really focused on defense [heading into overtime,]” said senior co-captain forward Scott Anderson, who followed up his career-high 35-point game on Saturday afternoon with 15 points and four rebounds against Clark. “We knew Vayda was going to get the ball in the last few minutes so we helped on him and locked the other guys down. We also focused on getting defensive rebounds that we were not getting towards the end of regulation.”
Following a 3-pointer by Vayda on the first possession of the extra period, a layup by freshman center Tom Palleschi and a triple from sophomore guard Ben Ferris gave the Jumbos a 65-63 lead with just three minutes remaining. The Cougars would have one more opportunity to win on the game’s final play, but junior Nicholas DaPrato’s final shot rimmed out.
“It’s huge for us to win games like these,” Anderson said. “In years past, these games have slipped so many times, it’s nice to finally pull them out, although winning by double digits is more convenient.”
Junior guard Oliver Cohen, who contributed eight points, three rebounds and three assist in 35 minutes agreed.
“We’ve had a handful of close wins like that throughout the season and it just helps to build your confidence going forward when you’re in tight games later on in the season,” he said. “To know that we can pull games like that out and win in a variety of ways is a great thing to draw upon later on when faced with similar situations.”
Ferris continued his stellar sophomore campaign with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three steals, while Palleschi tallied 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in the victory.
Coach Bob Sheldon’s squad has the rest of the week off before its regular season finale at Cousens Gymnasium against the Hamilton Centennials, a game that is meaningless for the Jumbos in terms of the NESCAC standings. The game is crucial for the Centennials, however, as they are still in position to clinch the fifth seed and set up a first-round match-up against Tufts.
While it may not have an effect on their tournament outlook, it will still serve as Senior Night for Anderson and graduating classmates Matt Lanchantin and Alex Goldfarb, and it could provide a final dose of confidence headed into the most important weeks of the year.
“The focus from now until the tournament is to first focus on beating Hamilton on Friday night,” freshman swingman Stephen Haladyna said. “Then we can go into the NESCAC tournament with a lot of confidence and knowing that we can beat any team in the league if we come out with energy.”