Women's Basketball | Sweet ambitions for the Jumbos
Well−rested Tufts returns to Cousens for NCAA tournament
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 01:03
For two weeks, the women’s basketball team’s season has been stuck in neutral. It was forced to wait out the remainder of the NESCAC tournament after an early exit and sit through the always nerve−racking process of selection for the NCAA tournament.
But, as the Jumbos prepare to put things back in drive tonight for their first−round matchup with St. Lawrence, the break was quite literally just what the doctor ordered.
“We went really hard in practice, but without a gam, it was also time for recovery,” graduate student co−captain Kate Barnosky said. “So I think we’re feeling a lot better, physically and emotionally.”
Barnosky was just one of a host of players suffering toward the end of the team’s regular season, playing the finale against Hamilton at far less than 100−percent capacity in her surgically−repaired leg. Sophomore point guard Kelsey Morehead, suffering from concussion symptoms stemming from an incident in the team’s Feb. 1 game against Trinity, sat out the game against the Continentals and just made it back in time for the NESCAC quarterfinals against Bowdoin. Junior guard Caitlin McClure missed both games after turning her ankle.
The time off served not only as a chance for Tufts to get better off the court, but also to revive its energy in the game. Getting positive results on the offensive end became a struggle for the Jumbos by the end of the year, who had two of their five worst shooting days of the year in their final two games, converting on just 32.8 percent of their shots in each and dropping to 91st in the Massey offensive ratings, an advanced statistical system for Div. III basketball.
Sophomore and leading scorer Hannah Foley went just 2−for−12 from the field against Bowdoin and reached double figures just once in her last five games after doing so 15 times in her first 20.
Two weeks was enough time for almost a complete audit of the squad’s offense.
“We got to really go back to the basics and work on executing our offenses and breaking each offense down to find what was going wrong and where we could improve,” senior co−captain Bre Dufault said.
While the time off may also have helped the Jumbos recover from their crushing conference tournament upset, the best medicine came on Monday afternoon, when the Jumbos learned they would be hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. For a team that is 21−3 at home over the past two seasons, there is no questioning the value of such an opportunity.
“I was pumped; it’s really exciting,” Dufault said of learning the team would be hosting. “It’s a special feeling, being in the gym. I don’t know what it is. There are the decorations, everything is all clean. It’s not stressful like traveling somewhere; it’s playing in your court where you feel comfortable.”
“Last year, hosting for the first time was awesome,” Barnosky added. “Looking back on those two games, it gives me chills, because it was just a great environment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Home−court advantage will play a major role in the Jumbos’ first round matchup, especially as they go up against a St. Lawrence squad that is just 6−6 on the road this season.
The Saints’ most intriguing player is six−foot sophomore guard Kara McDuffee, the team’s leading scorer, who may not quite get the size mismatches she’s used to against a tall Tufts backcourt. Still, as a 35.4−percent 3−point shooter, she’s the team’s biggest threat to get hot and keep things interesting if the Jumbos don’t put a hand in her face. Kelly Legg, the Saints’ 6−foot−2 junior forward, provides a secondary scoring threat with her similar height advantage.
“It’s all about recognizing that that girl’s hot right now, and we need to shut her down before she gets on a run and gets some confidence,” Dufault, who was awarded NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year earlier this week, said.
On paper, the Jumbos go into tonight’s game as heavy favorites. The Massey ratings have Tufts as the nation’s No. 10−ranked team, while St. Lawrence sits all the way down at No. 138. But with the loss to Bowdoin still fresh in their minds, Tufts players will take nothing for granted.