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Womens' Basketball | Tufts knocks off Hamilton, Williams, remains unbeaten

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 07:02

It was business as usual this weekend for the women’s basketball team as they improved to 21-0 on the season with back-to-back road victories over NESCAC foes Hamilton and Williams.

Tufts traveled to No. 10 Williams on Saturday for what was sure to be a grueling NESCAC test. The first half lived up to the billing, as both teams exchanged blows in what was a high-energy, chippy affair — typical of a NESCAC showdown.

The Ephs’ defensive pressure stifled the Jumbos, who were unable to find their offensive rhythm for much of the game. With just under six minutes to play in the opening frame, Williams grabbed a 27-24 lead on a pair of free throws from junior guard Kellie Macdonald. The Jumbos responded with a quick 5-0 run of their own, sparked by a 3-pointer from junior guard Hannah Foley.

Tufts held Williams scoreless in the last five minutes of the first half and headed into the break with a 31-27 advantage.

“Williams is a really good team — definitely one of the tougher teams in the NESCAC,” senior tri-captain guard Ali Rocchi said. “Both halves were a battle. You know you’re going to get that when you go up against a NESCAC team.”

The intensity carried over to the beginning of the second half. Junior guard Ellen Cook sank two free throws with 17:38 to play to bring Williams within one point, 34-33. With the home crowd behind their backs, it seemed the Ephs were going to give the undefeated, fifth-ranked Jumbos a run for their money. But back-to-back layups by junior guard Haley Kanner and Rocchi put the Jumbos back up by six and silenced the crowd. More importantly, the quick buckets sparked a 22-4 spurt over the next 10 minutes that gave Tufts a 56-37 advantage, essentially putting the game away for good. A quiet home crowd looked as stunned as the Williams players.

“We really came out strong in the second half,” senior tri-captain Caitlin McClure said. “I’m not exactly sure what it was, but something just clicked for us. We played together, came out with a lot of energy and, luckily, we got that quick push to give us a big lead.”

“In the second half we brought the energy [and] came out of the locker room ready to go,” Rocchi added. “We made some tough shots which I think deflated them.”

Foley led the way with 22 points on 8-12 shooting from the floor, while Kanner added 12 points to go along with five rebounds. Freshman forward Michela North continued her stellar rookie campaign with six points and a team-high seven rebounds.

The Jumbos also traveled to Hamilton on Friday to take on a pesky Continentals squad that entered the action on a two-game win streak. Tufts has made a habit of jumping on teams out of the gate and putting games away early, and Friday’s contest proved no different. Trailing 4-2 in the opening minutes, the Jumbos rattled off 10 straight points and never looked back. Tufts extended the lead to 20 at one point in the first half before settling for a 34-16 advantage at intermission.

Tufts received contributions across the board to help put Hamilton away in the second half and cruise to a 31-point victory. Junior guard Kelsey Morehead lit up the stat sheet, tallying 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. North scored a game-high of 14 points off the bench, while McClure and senior tri-captain guard Liz Moynihan chipped in with nine points apiece.

But to the delight of head coach Carla Berube, it was the Jumbos defensive effort that shined brightest on Friday. Tufts held Hamilton to 41 points for the game on just 30.6 percent shooting from the field, including a lowly 13.3 percent from beyond the arc.

“Defense is coach’s bread and butter,” said Rocchi. “This weekend it really started coming together. We were getting huge stops, which allow[ed] us to control the tempo of the game and push the ball in transition.”

“It’s something we’ve always stressed,” McClure added. “We do defensive drills in practice every day. It’s a huge focus. We’re confident on defense, and we use it to fuel our offense.”

The Jumbos are now only three wins away from finishing with a perfect regular season. In order to do so — and to continue winning in the playoffs — the team will need to keep bringing that defensive intensity that has fueled it thus far.

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