Women' Basketball | For Jumbos, not sweet enough
Amherst wins in familiar fashion, ends Tufts’ season
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 16:03
When Tufts took on Amherst Friday night in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the game followed a script that had been written many times before.
Once again, the Jumbos’ offense struggled to get going against a Lord Jeffs defense much better than most units they see, and once again, Tufts’ defense kept them in the game. The Jumbos once again entered halftime with hope and hung around for a full 40 minutes. But once again, it was not quite enough. Tufts was bounced from the tournament after a 47−42 defeat that ended its season and extended its losing streak against Amherst to 10 games.
While the result may have been predictable, it didn’t make the loss any easier for a Tufts team that had put together such a successful season. The Jumbos notched their first−ever NESCAC regular season title, finished with the best winning percentage in program history and made the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. But with so much success comes a desire for more, and the Jumbos couldn’t get past their conference rival.
LeFrak Gymnasium, hosting NCAA Tournament action for the second straight weekend, was loud from the get−go, and Amherst’s high−pressure defense left Tufts a bit flat. The Jumbos had no points before the first media timeout, and managed just four in the opening 12 minutes.
“I think they came out playing very good, pressure−packed defense,” graduate co−captain Kate Barnosky said. “I don’t think our offense was actually that bad — our shots weren’t following, maybe we had some jitters — but I think we just needed to ease our way into the game.”
But on the other end, the Jumbos seemed to have taken lessons from their earlier meetings and applied them with resounding success. Morehead, despite a significant size disadvantage, handled senior first−team All−NESCAC award winner Marcia Voigt, taking her completely off of her game. The Amherst star finished with just four points on 2−of−14 shooting, and didn’t manage a single point after halftime.
“The whole point was pretty much just to wear her down,” Morehead said of guarding Voigt. “We knew she was pretty much the creator for their team, and we knew if we could get her off her game it would affect the whole team.”
Both teams also spent much of the first half adjusting to the referees, who were quick with their whistles, especially on offensive fouls. Barnosky, for example, was charged with pushing off and found herself in foul trouble for much of the night, while the Lord Jeffs were hammered with multiple illegal screen calls, throwing them off of their game.
“It definitely had an impact,” Barnosky said. “They were calling some offensive fouls that personally made me more hesitant, some very bizarre calls. [Amherst] does get away with a lot of those illegal screens though.”
The Jumbos finally began to work their way into the game by getting the ball low against the high−set defense. Barnosky was able to get to the baseline a few times for easy layups, while sophomore forward Hayley Kanner, who went just 3−of−12 in the teams’ first meeting, impressed with a left−handed hook shot that she was able to consistently get off cleanly.
“Hayley was ready for this game from the moment we knew we were playing them again,” Morehead said. “She knew that she wanted to prove to everyone how good she was and that she’s ready.”
“She learned a lot from the film, especially that Amherst game,” Barnosky added. “The coaches got at her a bit, and she came back and proved that she could hold her own against some of the better post players.”
Tufts cut the lead to five, 22−17, at the break, and traded baskets with the Lord Jeffs for the early minutes of the second half. But anytime the Jumbos got close, the Lord Jeffs responded with a 3−pointer, first from senior guard Jasmine Hardy, then from freshman guard Cheyenne Pritchard.
“Part of why Amherst is so successful is their ability to answer anything, and I think that wears down other teams,” Morehead said. “Having the advantage of playing them before, we knew they were going to hit some threes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come back from that.”
Amherst looked to have converted a dagger with just under 12 minutes to go when Hardy hit yet another three and was fouled. The resulting free throw, one of 17 consecutive successful attempts from the line to start the game, extended the lead to eight, and after a quick Tufts turnover, coach Carla Berube was forced to use a timeout.
“We talked about just taking it by each possession,” Barnosky said of the conversation in the huddle. “Getting stops on defense and then executing on offense. I honestly never doubted for a second that we could get back into it and win the game.”
The Jumbos once again relied on their defense, which held the Lord Jeffs scoreless for eight straight possessions across six minutes. The result was a 6−2 run that cut the lead to two with just under four minutes left and gave the Jumbos three possessions to tie or take the lead. But the execution was poor, the looks were worse, and Tufts failed to ever fully close the gap.