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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Women's basketball | Strong post D propels Jumbos to a 6-0 start

During their first four games for the Colby-Sawyer Chargers, senior Noelle Surette and sophomore Terri Duffy combined to average 38.5 points and 21.3 rebounds in the post.

While the duo notched more than half its team's points and rebounds in Saturday afternoon's game against Tufts in New London, N.H., the Jumbos' post defense effectively neutralized the Chargers' one-two punch.

Senior co-captain Khalilah Ummah and junior Katie Tausanovitch headed a stifling Jumbo defense that held Colby-Sawyer to 21 percent shooting from the floor and ultimately led the team to a 68-40 victory, its sixth straight win to start the season.

Although the Jumbos beat Babson 76-64 Tuesday, that game was still a wake-up call for a defense that was far from flawless. Saturday, when Tufts took a 4-2 lead less than three minutes into the game, its defense provided tools needed to get back on track and maintain that lead for the next 37 minutes.

"The energy and focus on defense was constantly high, and that was much improved from Tuesday night," assistant coach Taryn Miller-Stevens said. "We were very happy with that effort. We're proud of the team for learning from Tuesday's game."

A large part of the Jumbos' improvement can be attributed to their post game, as Ummah and Tausanovitch utilized their height advantage to hold Surette and Duffy at bay. At 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3, respectively, Ummah and Tausanovitch had no trouble stopping the 5-foot-9 Surette and the 6-foot Duffy.

By simply playing straight up-and-down, the Jumbo duo frustrated the Chargers' go-to players, getting them in early foul trouble which ultimately forced them to play more hesitantly, preventing them from going up strong.

"[Surette], from what we saw on film, could rebound," Ummah said. "She got into position, got in front of people and boxed out and had nice post moves, but it was difficult for her when we were standing straight up - she couldn't shoot over us. We were just stronger, and they got in foul trouble early and became timid."

Both players picked up two of their four fouls in the first, and while it did not entirely limit their playing time - Surette played for 25 minutes and Duffy for 32 - it gave Tufts' post an advantage beyond its size.

The Jumbos knew Duffy and Surette's strength lay in their agility and effective post moves, but no type of post game would have been able to get around the type of defense Tufts put together.

"In the scouting report and game film we watched, both post players were agile and used a lot of fakes and often faked to the middle and went baseline," Miller-Stevens said. "The post did great staying down and not going for reach-ins or fouls. That offset their offense and caused them to not get into a flow."

Tufts' inside strength also gave it an edge on the other side of the floor. With Surette and Duffy preoccupied with their fouls, the Jumbos got inside position, grabbed the ball off the boards and used the outlet to push it down the floor. The team pulled down 61 rebounds - by far a season high - compared to the Chargers' 30.

Such dominance on the boards can be attributed to more effective help defense, which enabled the post players to get position on the blocks.

"Every game our help defense has improved, and with that, we're in better position for boxing out and outletting the ball," Miller-Stevens said.

In addition to running its transition game at full-force, the squad's halfcourt set was working better Saturday. The team had an easier time with the first pass than against Brandeis on Nov. 25, and with the ball at the wings, the Jumbos worked it inside or hit the flashing posts, who either used their size to go up with the ball or kicked it out beyond the arc.

"We kept putting it into the post because their post players are shorter," Ummah said. "If they doubled, we were able to kick it out and our guards hit their shots."

Just like the previous weekend, freshman point guard Colleen Hart led the team offensively, recording 15 points on 3-of-4 shooting from three-point land.

As has been the case in the jam-packed beginning of the season, Tufts will play another Tuesday night game, its last home game before the break. The Jumbos square off tomorrow against a Salem State team they handily beat 61-43 last year. Hoping to move to 7-0 on the early season, the Jumbos aren't about to overlook the visiting Vikings.

"Coach [Carla Berube] said they're better than last year," Ummah said. "And they'll be more intent on winning because we beat them in their own house by quite a bit. We'll need to stay composed and do things fundamentally well."