The Jumbos started off the second half of their season with two wins in the Infospace.com Holiday Classic, held in Los Angeles on Jan. 5-6. The trip gave the team an opportunity to compete against opponents they have never seen before, and also allowed Tufts to get back into its rhythm after more than four weeks away from the court.
In the first game of the tournament, Tufts trounced Pomona-Pitzer 78-62. The Jumbos were sparked by 71.4 percent shooting in the first half, and were up by 17 points at the break. Senior captain Dan Flaherty, who currently ranks third in the NESCAC at 19.1 points per game, led the way on offense, scoring 17 points despite spending just 18 minutes on the floor.
Junior guard Bobby MacMannis returned to the floor for the first time this season, having missed the first seven games with a wrist injury. He grabbed two rebounds in two minutes of play.
The team went on to face host Occidental in the second game, managing to fend off the Tigers for a three point victory. Flaherty and senior Fred Pedroletti each contributed 19 points to the cause, while point guard Bobby Mpuku added nine points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
"We played great out in California," sophomore Brian Shapiro said. "It's tough for any team to go on the road and win, and to go across the country and beat two pretty good teams was definitely a confidence booster for us."
The team returned to the east coast for a Jan. 10 match-up with Curry. The Jumbos started off slow, shooting just 26.5 percent in the first half, but were still able to carry a 27-24 lead into the locker room at half time.
The team came out stronger in the second stanza, shooting a blistering 59.3 percent from the field on the way to a 73-65 win. Flaherty once again led the team on the scoring end, putting up 24, and pulling down 16 boards for his second double-double of the season.
Tufts followed the Curry win with an 86-62 drubbing of UMass-Boston the following night at home in Cousens Gym. Coach Bob Sheldon used the game against a weaker opponent as an opportunity to give some of his younger players floor time, sending a total of 16 Jumbos out on the court. Fifteen of those players scored at least one point, although only Shapiro reached double figures. Turnovers were one of the biggest factors of the game, as the Jumbos forced 30 while giving up the ball just 15 times.
The game was the first at home since the team's Dec. 5 overtime win against Babson, and the Jumbos will not play on their home floor again until Jan. 26.
The four wins over break helped to re-establish the momentum that the team had put together during their 4-1 December, and lifted Tufts' overall record to 11-2. The Jumbos pushed their winning streak to seven with a 76-71 win over Brandeis on Tuesday, and crushed Wheaton last night 83-67.