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Men's Basketball | Tufts drops two home NESCAC contests

Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 08:01

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Caroline Geiling / The Tufts Daily

After winning five of its first six games in November, the Tufts men’s basketball team has now dropped seven of its last nine contests and is tied for last place in the NESCAC. After dropping their first conference game at Middlebury, the Jumbos lost matchups at home against Amherst and Trinity on Friday and Saturday.

Put simply, it’s not an ideal start for a team that last year claimed the fourth-seed in the NESCAC Championship tournament and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2006.

“It’s certainly not the way I want to go out, so hopefully we can turn it all around from here,” senior tri-captain guard Oliver Cohen said.

The Jumbos fell to the Bantams in the second contest of the weekend 64-54, as Trinity outrebounded Tufts by a 48-34 margin, reeling in 18 offensive rebounds. The Jumbos shot a poor 31.6 percent from behind the arc, compared to the Bantam’s 57.1 percent, and only hit 2-of-13 attempted 3-pointers in the second half,

Tufts also got in early foul trouble in the second half, putting Trinity in the bonus with over six minutes remaining. At the time, Tufts was already trailing 51-48. The Bantams were able to hold that lead for the rest of the game on and close out the Jumbos.

“We need to focus on playing more as a team, not [playing] as selfish,” Cohen said. “A lot of times, guys will start to go one-on-one and try to take over the game, not necessarily playing within the team and playing together. We have to work on that, effort and having some heart.”

The biggest spark for the Jumbos was freshman guard Tarik Smith’s 12 points off the bench on 3-of-4 shooting from downtown.

“My role off the bench is to come in with energy and make plays either defensively or offensively. If I’m open, not hesitating to shoot, and if not, trying to drive to the lane and get a basket, or look for my teammates,” Smith said.

On the previous night, the Jumbos hosted NESCAC No. 1 and national No. 6 Amherst. Though the Jumbos competed to the end against the Lord Jeffs, outshooting them 43.3 percent to 40 percent from the field, Amherst, led by senior guard tri-captain Aaron Toomey’s game-high 28 points, pulled out a 75-67 victory to remain undefeated in the conference.

Toomey, who became the all-time leading scorer for Amherst after his performance in Cousens Gymnasium, finished 17-of-18 from the free throw line, netting eight straight foul shots in the closing minutes.

Rebounding was once again problematic, as the undersized Tufts team got beat 42-28 on the boards by Amherst.

“We need to box out as a team, to get everybody out there and then go get a rebound instead of just turning. [Then we have to] go get it,” coach Bob Sheldon said. “We only have one or two big guys. We have to box out on every shot, and then when they take a shot everbody’s got to go, we have to have five guys on the boards.”

Sophomore Stephen Haladyna hit two 3-pointers en route to 17 points for the Jumbos, while Cohen snatched a game-high seven steals from the Lord Jeffs.

The most impressive play this game came from freshman center Hunter Sabety, the Jumbos’ game leader in three statistical categories: points, blocks and rebounds. Along with team-highs of 18 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, Sabety displayed basketball knowledge that eludes most freshmen — refusing to swat for foolish blocks and hedging on picks to assist Tufts’ guards.

Though the sky is the limit for Sabety’s potential, the Jumbos haven’t yet placed a lot of responsibility and expectation on the young center, especially with the loss of sophomore Tom Palleschi.

“He’s still young — in his league he was the biggest guy, so now it’s a little different, and he’s learning as he goes,” Sheldon said. “But we need to get a faster learning curve. When he goes hard, and he goes at it, nobody can stop him.”

Sabety and the Jumbos will be looking to stop the three game conference-play slide on Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Bates Bobcats.

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