Men’s Basketball | Tufts splits weekend road games in Connecticut
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 08:02
Riding its first NESCAC victory into a weekend of games on the road, the men’s basketball team defeated Connecticut College on Friday night before falling to Wesleyan the next day, dropping the Jumbos to a tie for eighth place in the conference.
Despite starting the weekend with a defensive stand, limiting the Conn. College team that is third in the league in 3-point shots made and averages 68.6 points per game to just five 3-point-shots and 51 points, the Jumbos fell to a red-hot Cardinals squad the following day. The two games were completely different stories for the Jumbos, who failed to bring the same intensity into Saturday’s game.
“Friday night we brought a lot of energy and then Saturday, first half, we didn’t bring a lot of energy. I think that was the reason why we won Friday and the reason why we lost Saturday,” senior tri-captain guard Kwame Firempong said. “Coming off of a late game Friday night and then an earlier game Saturday afternoon, it’s all about having energy. It’s all about us bringing our own energy in the first half, especially on the road.”
Wesleyan took charge right from the get-go, taking the lead a minute and a half into the game and never looking back. Sophomore guard Jack Mackey of the Cardinals put his team up quickly with a 3 -pointer at the 18:29 mark. It would be the first of six for Mackey, who shot 67 percent from behind the arc and led the team with 20 points.
It was not just Mackey, however, who shot lights out for the Cardinals — the whole team torched the Jumbos, shooting seven-for-11 from downtown and 20-for-31 from the field in the first half.
Though Wesleyan was able to extend its lead to as much as 14 points in the first half, Tufts was resilient on the offensive end of the court. Freshman center Hunter Sabety went six-of-seven from the field and accumulated 13 points by halftime. A 3-pointer from junior guard Ben Ferris with just over a minute left in the half cut the Cardinals’ lead to just six.
That was as close as Tufts would get all night. Wesleyan continued its prolific shooting in the second half as well to take home its third-straight conference victory, ending the game at 58.9 percent from the floor and with six players in double figures.
“Part of that’s on us, to not let them get a lot of those outside looks,” senior tri-captain guard Oliver Cohen said. “They did shoot the ball really well, but we [have to] come out with better energy than we did today and have more pride defensively. They were hitting some shots and ... we were just letting them have them.”
The lead stretched to as much as 25 before Tufts was able to grind out a final score of 86-73. Sabety finished with a game-high of 22 points and five blocks, while Ferris scored 19 points on the day. Cohen finished with six assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Jumbos. Tufts was plagued by poor 3-point shooting throughout the contest, hitting just six out of the 27 attempted shots from outside the arc.
The night before, however, in nearby New London, Conn., the Jumbos were able to pick up their second-straight conference victory over the Camels, 66-51. Tufts came out with a completely different demeanor, playing steadfast defense to set the pace for a strong performance.
“On Friday I think we brought a lot of defensive energy. It all started from there and our offense sort of followed,” said Firempong, who scored six and had five assists in the victory. “A great offensive team such as Conn., we came out and I think we were able to hold them to 20 points under their average on the year. We brought a lot of energy defensively and our offense was able to get in transition. We were able to get some easy buckets early on.”
The Jumbos were able to keep the Camels scoreless until the 16:30 mark of the first half, forcing two turnovers in the process. The Camels did not reach double digits until over 10 minutes into the game, by which point the Jumbos had built an eight-point lead.
Conn. College, however, would go on a 12-7 run to shrink the lead to just five at the 4:10 mark after senior guard Mark Vadas hit a pair of free throws. Six points from Cohen in the last three minutes of the half, along with a 3-pointer from senior forward Tommy Folliard and a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Stephen Haladyna, put Tufts up by nine going into the break.
From that point on it was all Tufts, as the visitors stretched the lead to as much as 24 points on two separate occasions in the second half. Sabety once again led the way for the Jumbos in scoring, finishing with 18 points, while Haladyna and Cohen added 14 and 10 points, respectively. Tufts also continued their strong defensive performance on the other end of the court, as Conn. College shot just 20 percent from the field in the second half.
Next up for the Jumbos will be a matchup in Cousens Gymnasium against the visiting UMass Dartmouth Corsairs on Tuesday night. With just five regular season games remaining, and a spot in the NESCAC Championship tournament at stake, the Jumbos must be playing with more passion in order to secure a spot in the postseason.
“It’s about coming out every game and treating every game the same regardless of the team we’re playing and regardless of whether we’re on a winning streak or not,” Cohen said. “Nothing should change in terms of our energy and how hard we play every game. For the next couple games we need to make sure we bring that high level of energy because that’s when we’re at our best.”