Women's Basketball | Jumbos finish first perfect NESCAC season
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:02
Any questions surrounding the women’s basketball team following its first loss of the season to Babson last week were emphatically answered by back-to-back-blowout wins over NESCAC foes Colby and Bowdoin at Cousens Gymnasium this past weekend. The wins secured a No. 1 seed in the upcoming championship tournament and the program’s first ever perfect record (10-0) in conference play.
On Friday Tufts put together one of its best defensive efforts of the year, holding Colby to just 13 points in the second half of a 54-33 win. Less than 24 hours later, the Jumbos took the floor again on Senior Night and secured a win via offensive production, putting up 92 points en route to a 92-55 rout of Bowdoin.
“After the loss to Babson we came together as a team,” said junior forward Hannah Artner. “We discussed what happened, learned from it, and then moved on and put it behind us. We didn’t let it shake our confidence but instead we turned it into a positive and used it to fuel us to get back to playing Jumbo basketball at the level we know we are capable of playing.”
On Saturday night, the Jumbos didn’t let the emotions of Senior Night get in the way of their ultimate goal: to stay unbeaten in NESCAC action. Tufts came storming out of the gate, shooting at a 69.2 percent clip from the field in the first half, including knocking down a season-best nine 3-pointers in the half. The effortless shooting sparked a 12-1 run early in the game and an 18-10 run to close the half with a 54-32 advantage to take into halftime.
“We really fed off the energy of our seniors,” sophomore guard Nicole Brooks said. “We took their energy and used it.”
Tufts continued its dominance in the second half. The Jumbos shot 61 percent from the field overall on the game, including 10 for 16 on three-pointers. The hosts had 19 assists on 31 baskets, including a game-high six from Morehead. The lead topped at 40 twice, and the Jumbos would ultimately settle for a 37-point victory.
The 92 points marks the highest point total a Tufts squad has scored since a 95-35 win over Mount Ida in 2008. Five Jumbos posted double-digit point totals, including a game-high 20 from senior guard Liz Moynihan. Kanner added 15 points of her own to go along with three blocks for the second straight game.
“I don’t think it was out of the ordinary,” Brooks said of the team’s offensive outburst. “We always have the opportunity to get a lot of open shots, and we have the potential to knock them down.”
On Friday, Tufts entered action one win away from securing the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Championship tournament for the second straight season. From the tip, it was clear Colby wasn’t going to make it easy for Tufts. Each time it looked like the Jumbos might pull away, the Mules put together a timely run to get back into the contest. Trailing 20-13 with just under five minutes remaining in the first half, Colby used a 7-2 run to pull within two points heading into intermission, holding Tufts scoreless over the final four minutes.
The Jumbos continued to struggle after the break, and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Carylanne Wolfington at the 17:32 mark put the Mules up 23-22. On the next possession, junior guard Kelsey Morehead sank a pair of free throws to give Tufts a lead that it would not surrender.
A 24-6 extended run over the next ten minutes, highlighted by eight points from junior forward Hayley Kanner, gave Tufts a 48-29 lead and put the game away for good.
The Jumbo’s stifling defense was on full display Friday night, as they held the Mules to just six points in the final 10:46 of regulation. Tufts forced 20 turnovers and held Colby to just 25 percent shooting from the field.
Freshman guard Michela North scored a game-high 15 points to go along with six rebounds and Kanner scored 14 points while grabbing six boards and three blocks.
Having clinched the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC, the Jumbos will have home-court advantage for the entire tournament, which starts next Saturday when Tufts hosts eighth-seeded Wesleyan in the quarterfinals.
“It’s always great to play at home,” Artner said. “Being able to play on our court with our fans at our backs will hopefully allow us to maintain our energy and offensive productivity from this past weekend.”