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Women's Basketball | Jumbos beaten on a prayer, fall to Amherst 54-48

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 08:02


Zhuangchen Zhou / The Tufts Daily

Senior co-captain Bre Dufault scored 7 points in 27 minutes for the Jumbos in their 54-48 loss to Amherst.


On Groundhog Day, history repeated itself yet again for Tufts and Amherst.

With the eyes of the nation focused on the matchup of the top-five teams, and the clock ticking under one minute in the second half, Amherst senior guard Marcia Voigt nursed her team’s three-point lead, letting more than 20 seconds run off the clock before crossing half court.

Playing on her Senior Day, Voigt was always going to take the shot herself. But the Jumbos’ defense was once again at its best, stifling her every move, even as her teammates tried to free up space for her with a series of screens.

As the shot clock hit five, she attempted a pass that was deflected by Tufts sophomore guard Hannah Foley. Voigt found herself tied up with two defenders and a teammate trying to set a screen. As the clock hit three, Foley and two Amherst players all arrived at the loose ball together, and it popped free. As it hit two, Lord Jeff freshman Cheyenne Pritchard grabbed the ball and got it out to Voigt

And, just before it hit zero, she threw up a 25-foot prayer that took a friendly bank into the hoop, the latest heroic dagger for the Lord Jeffs in what is becoming a lengthy history against the Jumbos.

“I thought the shot clock had gone off, but it’s hard to tell,” Tufts coach Carla Berube said. “I can’t believe she made that bank shot, but [Voigt’s] tough, and she makes those plays.”

The shot capped a thrilling matchup in an energy-packed atmosphere at Amherst’s LeFrak Gymnasium. Tufts responded to Amherst runs of 5-0, 6-0 and 10-2 in the second half, the type that had blown games open between the two sides in recent years. But they had no response for the final shot, dropping their first game of the season, 54-48.

It was a scrappy, physical game, with both teams picking up fouls early and often. The Jumbos were the biggest beneficiaries of those calls early on, as Voigt was forced off the court for 11 minutes of the first half after picking up two in quick succession.

Though Voigt left the game with the Lord Jeffs leading by just two, the Jumbos couldn’t take advantage of her absence, largely due to Amherst freshman Haley Zwecker, who came in for the senior and scored seven points before the break.

“Both our freshmen and our two sophomores played great tonight,” Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. “They made some big shots, Zwecker in the first half and [Pritchard] in the second half. I was pretty happy about that.”

Tufts’ offense had to execute well just to keep pace, and Amherst matched them at every turn as the teams headed into the locker rooms tied at 22.

In the second half, the Jumbos seemed to have fewer and fewer ideas on the offensive end, the result of a Lord Jeffs side that made the necessary adjustments to restrict their on-and-off-the-ball movement.

“We just tightened it up a little bit and made some stops when we needed them,” Gromacki said.

The result was a key stretch late in the game that included four straight missed field goals and two turnovers for Tufts.

“[Amherst] played really great defense, and were really pressuring us, [Foley] especially,” graduate co-captain Kate Barnosky said. “It took away some options for us, and we just didn’t execute our plays.”

Struggling,the squad turned to Barnosky, who had seven second-half points, including a three-pointer with under two minutes to go that cut the lead to three before Voigt’s dagger.

But Amherst truly won the game before that moment, and they won it in the post. Sophomores Megan Robertson and Savannah Holness dominated the proceedings, as Robertson finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Holness added nine points and seven boards of her own. The result was a plus-seven rebound margin for the Lord Jeffs that fails to tell the whole story of how dominant they were on 50/50 balls down low.

“We need to keep attacking the glass,” Berube said. “When they attacked, they got things going. We need to get better at that. They got some loose balls and some rebounds, some of those hustle plays that we need to make to win games.”

“What seems to be hurting us is that in help defense we’ll rotate, and that weak side rotation is tough to get a body on,” Barnosky added. “It’s an area we definitely need to improve.”

Foley and classmate Hayley Kanner each finished with eight points for Tufts, though Kanner struggled against Robertson, finishing just 3-for-12 from the field with two of the made attempts coming on jump shots from the elbow.

The loss breaks a 22-game winning streak for the No. 5 Jumbos, the longest in school history. It also keeps No. 4 Amherst in line for its third perfect regular season in four years. The Lord Jeffs travel to No. 20 Williams next weekend.

“We’ve put together a lot of good games in a row,” Berube said of the streak. “Some great games, some we maybe should have won by a bit more. But every game, we managed to come out on top, and that says a lot about our team and the program, and it’s definitely put us on the big-time national map.”

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