Women's Basketball | Tufts stays perfect with road victories over Wesleyan and Conn. College
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 08:02
The fourth-ranked women’s basketball team withstood two tough road tests over the weekend against NESCAC foes Connecticut College and Wesleyan University to improve to 18-0 on the year.
The Jumbos have made a habit this year of putting teams away early in games. Entering this weekend’s action, 12 of their 16 wins had come by at least 15 points. Outside of a gritty seven-point win against Amherst at home on Jan. 17, they had yet to face many opponents that could pose a legitimate threat to their perfect season.
Saturday’s game seemed no different as the Jumbos traveled to Wesleyan to take on the 12-6 Cardinals. The Jumbos came out of the gate on fire, scoring the game’s first 10 points. The Cardinals responded with an 8-0 run of their own in just over one minute to cut the deficit to two points. The teams played it close the rest of the way, and Tufts entered the break with a slim 30-27 edge.
Just as they had done to start the game, Tufts opened the second half on a run, scoring the first six points to extend the lead to 36-27. The lead ballooned to 13 with 10:25 to go, but the pesky Cardinals orchestrated yet another run to pull within five points at 56-51 and put the Jumbos on their heels. After the teams traded empty possessions, senior guard Liz Moynihan hit a huge 3-pointer to put the Jumbos back up by eight. With just over a minute left, Moynihan’s shot proved to be the dagger, as Tufts held on for a 62-53 win.
Junior guard Kelsey Morehead played all 40 minutes in the contest, scoring eight points, along with six assists. Juniors Hayley Kanner and Hannah Foley recorded their customary double-digit scoring total, tallying 13 and 11, respectively.
In Friday’s matchup against Conn. College, Tufts took control in the early parts of the game with an 11-2 run. But with strong play on the defensive end, Conn. College was able to slowly climb back into the contest, closing the half on a 19-9 run and giving its home fans something to cheer about heading into intermission.
Trailing by one at the break, the Jumbos came out a bit sluggish, getting careless with the ball on offense and allowing the Camels uncontested looks from the floor on defense. The home team opened the frame on an 11-4 run, extending the lead to 32-24 with 16:32 remaining. Tufts head coach Carla Berube called for a timeout, and after her pep talk, the team that came out of the huddle once again resembled the squad that had yet to drop a game on the year.
“It’s tough to go and play in a gym that you don’t practice in. You’re not used to it,” sophomore guard Melissa Blotner said. “But we have to be able to adjust and not change our game based on where we are playing.”
Sparked by sharp shooting from Kanner and strong play down low from freshman phenom Michela North, the Jumbos fought their way back into the game, rattling off five quick points and a 12-4 stretch over the next five minutes to tie the game at 36 with 10:53 left to play.
The Camels held strong, regaining the lead a few times as the teams traded baskets for most of the second half. Trailing 44-43 with just over six minutes remaining, the Jumbos forced a turnover and were able to get it to North down low for an uncontested layup. Two more trips to the charity stripe on the next two possessions helped the Jumbos build a 48-44 edge with just over four minutes remaining, and they would never look back. Tufts forced some timely turnovers in the final stretch and made their free throws to secure a hard-fought 56-49 road win. They finished the game on a 32-13 run.
“These games showed a lot about our character,” Kanner said. “Wesleyan and Conn. were two great teams that were not going to back down. It shows how we’re going to react when we’re not up by 20, and we need to pull out a close game. It shows a lot about this team and our resilience.”
One of the advantages the Jumbos have that allows them to stay in games like these is their well-rounded team.
“It’s awesome to play on this type of team because there’s no pressure on any one player to carry the whole team,” Kanner said. “It’s tough for opponents to narrow in on one player because everyone is capable of putting up big numbers. It’s just a question of who’s feeling it on any given night.”
Tufts will travel to Rhode Island College on Tuesday before returning to NESCAC action this weekend when they take on Hamilton and Williams on the road.
“We have a lot of goals, but the only thing we’re thinking about right now is the short-term,” Kanner said. “We’re trying to put in great practices, keep getting better and not take any steps back. We have a tough game against Rhode Island this week, and that is our focus.”