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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Women's Basketball | Jumbos yield only eight second-half points, thrash Wheaton

In each of the past two seasons, the women's basketball team has suffered buzzer-beater losses to out-of-conference foe Wheaton. And just four days removed from a deflating last-second loss to Amherst, the Jumbos were set to take on the Lyons again, hoping to avoid a little déj?  vu.

Thanks to a suffocating defensive effort in the second half, nationally-ranked No. 18 Tufts left Wheaton no opportunity to pull any late-game heroics this time around.

The Jumbos held the Lyons to just eight points on 12.5 percent shooting from the field in the second half, cruising to a 61-36 trouncing Tuesday night in Norton, Mass.

The Jumbos' second straight victory moves them to 14-1 on the season. The Lyons dropped to 11-5 as they saw their seven-game winning streak, the team's longest in 12 years, come to a screeching halt.

The game was a back-and-forth affair in the early going before, with 13:15 left in the first half, Tufts put up a 7-0 run to bring its lead to 21-14 midway through the first half. The team hit on 10 of its first 13 shots and was paced by eight early points from senior co-captain Khalilah Ummah.

But the Jumbos' shooting cooled, and they were unable to take their lead to double digits. Two nine-point leads slipped as the team shot just 26 percent from the field in the final 10 minutes of the half. A 30-21 lead with 2:06 remaining faded as Wheaton went on a 7-2 run to close the half, finishing it off with a jumper by junior guard Jennie Pleat to keep the Lyons within four heading into halftime.

"We were struggling offensively and we had some careless play," junior center Katie Tausanovitch said. "Wheaton is a good team; they have good personnel ... We were playing a running game, and I think we got a little tired and our communication wasn't there."

The Jumbos took it to another level in the second half, showing the kind of skills that vaulted them to a best-ever program start and a No. 14 national ranking last week.

"We are having problems putting 40 minutes together, but I think we proved in the second half how we are capable of playing," Tausanovitch said.

After a layup by Wheaton junior forward Krystin Hickey one minute into the second half brought Tufts' lead down to 35-30, the Jumbos took off. Over the next eight minutes, they extended their lead to 16 behind two three-pointers from freshman point guard Colleen Hart. The Needham, Mass. native and Tufts' leading scorer finished with 14 points on the evening, which tied with Ummah for the game high.

Wheaton appeared prime for a run when a three-point play by Hickey cut the lead to 13 with 7:37 remaining. But the Jumbos once again clamped down. The only Lyons points in the last seven and a half minutes came on a free throw by sophomore forward Jenny Champney that made the score 59-36 with 3:25 left to play.

"During halftime we talked a lot about our defensive intensity and our communication," Tausanovitch said. "We had been working in practice a lot on defending ball screens and getting out on the shooters. During halftime we really regrouped and Coach reminded us about what we had been working on. I think we came out in the second half with that and performed."

The Jumbos defense, which entered the game ranked 15th in Div. III in defensive field-goal percentage, held the home team to just 27 percent shooting for the game. Tufts turned 28 Lyons turnovers into 29 points, while Ummah and Tausanovitch dominated inside, combining for 25 points.

"I think we didn't play our best defense in the first half and that was something Coach stressed in the second half," Hart said. "Our offense kind of came from that."

Tausanovitch added 11 points, while sophomore Julia Baily, continuing her strong play of late, rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10. The effort was Baily's third-straight double-digit scoring performance and her fourth in the last five games.

Tufts will finish off its non-conference schedule tonight at home versus Worcester State, before traveling to Bates for its first NESCAC road game. The Jumbos bested the Bobcats a few weeks ago, 66-57, in a game that saw them jump out to a big lead early and hold on for the victory, but they know that all NESCAC games are a challenge.

"[Bates] is a good team," Hart said. "I think we had a close game with them. It is definitely going to be a good game for us, especially since they have seen some of what we have."

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