Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Men's basketball pounds Wheaton, slips by Brandeis

With a narrow 76-71 victory over Brandeis on Tuesday night, and a 83-67 thumping of Wheaton last night, the Jumbos improved to 11-2 on the season and extended their season-high winning streak to seven games.

Sophomore guard Brian Shapiro scored a game-high 24 points last night, and freshman Phil Barlow added 16 off the bench as the Jumbos cruised past the 7-6 Lyons. Tufts' defense propelled the victory as Wheaton committed 25 turnovers and only shot 40 percent from the field.

On Tuesday night, Tufts' defense was somewhat lackadaisical, allowing Brandeis to shoot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half before clamping down later in the game, when the Jumbos' high-octane offense heated up and powered the team to victory.

"We played okay defensively," coach Bob Sheldon said. "We came out and shot pretty well. We shot 50 percent, and that is why we won."

Usually, the Jumbos count on the big three of Shapiro and seniors Dan Flaherty and Fred Pedroletti to do most of the scoring. While Flaherty managed to drop in 15 points, Brandeis held Pedroletti (six points) and Shapiro (seven points) well under their season averages of 10.7 and 15.9, respectively.

In search of points, the Jumbos turned to Barlow, who shot 5-6 from the field and 4-4 from beyond the three point line on his way to 16 points overall, nearly seven points above his season average. Flaherty, Pedroletti, Shapiro, and Barlow were four of the ten Jumbos who scored four or more points during the game.

"We just have a deep team," Shapiro said. "Some games people score more than others and last night was a great example of that. [Barlow] had 16 points and [sophomore Kyle Van Natta] also played great. That's what is so good about our team. Everyone can play and we know that everyone is capable of having a great game every game."

The Jumbos dominated the Judges defensively in the second half, holding the team to a pitiful 35.3 shooting percentage. With Brandeis down six, at 54-48, with 14:21 left to play, the Jumbos ran off eight straight points to bring the advantage to 14. Then the Judges responded with a barrage of three pointers, cutting the lead to three with nine seconds left.

"We got up 14 and we didn't really put the nail in the coffin," Flaherty said. "They hit a bunch of threes. We took it for granted that the game was over. We really have to close out games against the weaker teams. We will get beat by tougher teams if we have those lapses."

"We got the lead up to 14 with five or six [minutes left] then they started making some crazy threes," Sheldon said. "I was a little disappointed that we didn't put them away."

One of Tufts greatest team strengths has been its ability to dominate the boards. However, on this night, Brandeis dominated the glass, outrebounding the Jumbos by a 40 to 29 margin, enabling the Judges to stay with the more talented Tufts team for most of the evening. Much of this spread can be attributed to the fact that Brandeis is a much bigger team than Tufts, as no starter, except point guard Antonio Williams, was under 6' 4".

"They were the tallest team we've played so far," Shapiro said. "Our guards were forced to defend kids that were three to four inches taller."

"They clearly outrebounded us last night," Flaherty said. "That is something that we should be aware of. It was a little bit of a reality check that rebounding is not going to come to us. Rebounding is a pretty much hustle and we didn't hustle as much as we should have."

Despite being closer than expected, the Jumbos were pleased to come out with a victory, and were glad to see that junior guard Bobby MacMannis is working his way back into the rotation, after missing most of the season recovering from a injury to his shooting wrist. MacMannis (2-3 for five points) had his highest scoring output in the four games he has played since his return, and is currently shooting a red-hot 66.7 percent from the field on the season.

"He is slowly getting back into playing shape," Sheldon said. "He is doing more than just scoring. He is playing great defense."

While Sheldon may have been unhappy with the overall effort, there is no denying that a win is a win.

"I thought we were going to win by 15," Sheldon said. "Maybe we looked ahead a little bit because league play [NESCAC] starts on Saturday against Bates."

"We probably didn't win by as much as we should have," Flaherty said. "We looked a little tired and maybe weren't mentally into it. We did what we had to."

After beating Wheaton easily last night, the Jumbos will begin the most important part of the season on Saturday afternoon, when the team heads to Maine to battle Bates in what marks the commencement of NESCAC play.