Men’s Basketball | Tufts set for rematch against Bowdoin in Saturday’s quarterfinals
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 00:02
At this time last year, the Tufts men’s basketball team was mired in a three-game losing streak and entering the postseason complete disarray.
What a difference one year can make.
The Jumbos enter tomorrow afternoon’s NESCAC quarterfinals matchup against Bowdoin firing on all cylinders and having won 10 of their past 11 games. Despite getting off to a slow start, the Jumbos finished the regular season with a 16-8 record, including seven victories in the NESCAC. Coach Bob Sheldon’s squad has found a formula for success in recent weeks, which features strong on-ball pressure defense and a balanced inside- out attack.
“I think last year we started off the season strong and, for whatever reason, kind of started to fall apart later on,” said junior guard Oliver Cohen, who tied a career-high with nine assists in Tufts’ regular season finale against Hamilton. “This year we didn’t start off so strong but we’ve been steadily getting better throughout, and we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The Jumbos have been paced by a balanced offensive effort throughout the 2013 campaign, with three players averaging double-digit scoring. Senior co-captain Scott Anderson has led the way with his versatile skill set in the post, accumulating nearly 13 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and providing strong play on the defensive end.
Sophomore guard Ben Ferris has also emerged as a NESCAC star during his second year in brown and blue, adding 12.5 points and 1.4 steals per game to his team-leading 6.5 rebounds per game, a particularly impressive number for a guard.
In addition, the emergence of freshmen Tom Palleschi and Stephen Haladyna has played a major part in the team’s success, as Palleschi’s post presence and Haladyna’s 3-pointer prowess have proved invaluable to the Jumbo attack.
The Jumbos will look to maintain this well-rounded stability on Saturday in their game against Bowdoin.
“I think the keys for us are to keep playing an up-tempo style, pushing the ball as much as possible, getting out and running, kicking it up to our 3-point shooters,” Cohen said. “And also defensively just playing good help defense when we need to, but ideally playing solid individual defense, with each person keeping his man in front just so we don’t have to help as much.”
Throughout the season, the Polar Bears have been largely inconsistent, but have won their final two regular season contests against conference foes.
When these two squads faced off earlier in the season in Brunswick, the Jumbos came out firing in the second half to take the victory 82-69. While Sheldon’s squad struggled off the bat, Tufts got in a groove and outscored the Polar Bears by 12 in the second.
“We had a slow start against Bowdoin last time and went into the half only up by one,” Palleschi said. “When we came out in the second half, our main focus was defense and making the extra pass to find an open shot.”
Ferris connected on 4 of 7 shots for 15 points and 13 rebounds in the win. Palleschi dominated the inside with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Bowdoin defends ball screens very similarly to the way we do so practice is that much more similar to the game,” Palleschi said. “Playing with unselfish guys who have the team’s best interest at heart is how I had the game that I did [in January].”
Although the Jumbos have reached the NESCAC Playoffs several times in recent years, the team has failed to make it past the first round since the 2005-2006 season, putting even more pressure on Tufts to come out victorious on Saturday. While team members acknowledge their desire for an extended playoff run, the team is focused solely on beating Bowdoin on Saturday, knowing that it could be the last game of the season.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” Palleschi said. “We can’t be focusing on games after Bowdoin because without a win, that’s our last game. NCAAs would be really nice but that’s irrelevant, Bowdoin is what’s next.”