Women's Basketball | Jumbos pull away from Regis to stay undefeated
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 07:12
After a weak first half, the No. 12 women’s basketball team found a rhythm late at home, outscoring Regis College by 21 points in the second half and earning its sixth straight victory, 73-51.
The Jumbos’ typically elite defense struggled in the first half on Saturday. Regis’ sophomore guard Emilee Marro had her way with the home team early, shooting 4-for-9 from the field in the first half while getting to the foul line for another six free throws, all of which she converted.
The end result was a 16-point, four-rebound half for Marro and just a one-point lead for Tufts at the break. When Regis scored to open the second half, it was the first time Tufts had trailed after halftime this year.
“Our defense is our go-to, and it really wasn’t there yesterday in the first half,” junior forward Ali Rocchi said. “We usually hold teams to low scoring, and they were really getting a lot of shots off. One girl in particular was really killing us. We figured it out, but that first half wasn’t our best defense.”
Despite the early struggles, the Jumbos were well aware of what needed to change in the second half, even before coach Carla Berube talked to them in the halftime locker room.
“There wasn’t much to say — we knew what we were doing wrong,” Rocchi said. “We were kind of sluggish, we weren’t doing much with our defense, and our defense really feeds into our offense.”
The result was two halves that ended up looking like night and day. After shooting 36.4 percent in the first half, the Pride managed just 26.9 percent from the field in the second half. Marro was held to just three points on 1-of-8 shooting, and Tufts gave up just six offensive rebounds on 22 opportunities.
Tufts was also able to accomplish more on offense in the second half, as the team slowly figured out the Regis zone defense. Up three with a little over 15 minutes to go, the Jumbos began to utilize an inside-out game to create opportunities.
Sophomore guard Hannah Foley and junior guard Liz Moynihan hit shots to stretch the lead to eight, and then graduate student Kate Barnosky — who struggled for much of the day — created a mini run of her own, hitting two 3-pointers in quick succession to stretch the lead to 14.
“Just figuring out where the weaknesses in the zone were took awhile,” sophomore forward Hayley Kanner said. “We had a huge height advantage, so once we put it into the post more, it would open up our shooters, and we were able to move the ball around a lot more.”
From there, the result was never again in doubt. Tufts dominated the boards and was able to use that to consistently create enough points on offense to hold off Regis. The Jumbos had nine offensive rebounds and a plus-five rebound margin after the break.
Tufts was capable of controlling the game due to a large size advantage. Highlighted by the 6-foot-2 Kanner, the Jumbos are currently starting a lineup with four players that are at least 5-foot-9, one of the team’s tallest in recent years. Foley continued her breakout sophomore campaign with 15 points and eight rebounds, but Kanner was the difference maker on Saturday, with 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Kanner proved she was a defensive force last year, leading the NESCAC in blocks per game, but struggled at times on the offensive side, averaging only five points. This year, she seems to have figured it out, setting a career high on Saturday while scoring in double digits for the second straight game.
“I worked on my offense in the off-season, but I think, much like the team, my energy comes when I’m playing great defense,” Kanner said. “My teammates are great about finding me in the post when I’m open, but what I think is great about our offense this year is how versatile we are both in the post and with shooters. It’s really whatever’s open, and yesterday we had the height advantage.”
Rocchi also appears to be looking more comfortable after returning from a season-long knee injury last year. In just 14 minutes on the floor, she compiled seven points and seven rebounds, many of which came during Tufts’ key second-half run.
“It takes some time to get adjusted, and playing on a team like ours definitely helps,” Rocchi said. “When there are great athletes surrounding you, it makes you want to get better. Over time, the team as a whole is just going to keep getting better.”
With the victory, the Jumbos improve to a perfect 6-0 to start the season. They conclude their pre-winter break schedule with a busy week that includes games on Tuesday at Emerson College, Thursday at home to UMass-Boston and Saturday away to Bridgewater State. If Tufts can sweep the three, it will be the first time the team enters winter break undefeated since the 2007-2008 season, when the Jumbos made a run all the way to the Elite Eight.
“I think non-conference games are a huge part of the season,” Rocchi said. “They bring us into winter break and are a chance for a big statement. A lot of these teams are in-region, and just because they aren’t ranked doesn’t mean they aren’t good.”