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

Men's Basketball | Jumbos' season ends with weekend sweep in Maine

Ultimately, 2007-2008 was not the year for the men's basketball team.

Needing at least one victory over the weekend to have a shot at the eighth and final spot in the NESCAC Tournament which opens next weekend, the Jumbos fell flat, dropping two tightly contested games to fall to 1-8 in the conference and deny the team a berth in the conference tourney.

"Things just didn't go our way," junior guard Aaron Gallant said. "We played hard, but in the end it just didn't work out."

"We played really tough both games," sophomore forward Dave Beyel added. "We wanted both real bad. In the Bowdoin game, we got off to a slow start and never really got it together until the second half. It was the same thing with the Colby game; we trailed most of the way but we came out in the second half because we knew the season was on the line. It just didn't work out in the end."

As it turned out, a win on Saturday would have placed the Jumbos in the postseason, but their offense was weaker than usual and they dropped a 71-68 battle to Colby.

Trailing by 10 at the half, Tufts opened the second half on a 24-11 run to go up by three. However, a clutch three-pointer from Colby senior captain Mark Gaudet with the game tied at 60 put the Mules ahead for good. A three-pointer from junior forward Jon Pierce brought the Jumbos within one at 69-68, but sophomore Justin Sherman and junior Artie Cutrone each hit a free throw in the final seconds to secure the win for Colby.

Senior tri-captain Jake Weitzen and classmate Jeremy Black played admirably in the loss, scoring 15 and 13 points respectively in the final games. Weitzen added six rebounds and three assists, and Black added four assists and two steals. Tufts sorely missed the services of senior tri-captain Ryan O'Keefe, who sat out the weekend with an ankle injury.

"The seniors played well, and they played hard," Gallant said. "For whatever reason, it just didn't work out this year."

"Jake Weitzen had a great weekend," Beyel added. "All of the seniors stepped up, but unfortunately we didn't have Ryan O'Keefe. The seniors were the ones trying to make the shots down the stretch, and if a couple of them had fallen, it may have been a different story."

Sophomore forward Adam Choice led all scorers with 27 points for the Mules and earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors for his performance.

The victory allowed Colby to sneak into the NESCAC Tournament as the eighth seed. The Mules earned a date with national No. 1 Amherst, which took the No. 1 seed for the fourth straight season. Amherst enters the tournament as the clear favorite, as the Lord Jeffs' 9-0 conference record and 22-2 overall mark earned them the top ranking in the Northeast Region.

On Friday, the story was similar for Tufts, as the team allowed only 71 points to a strong Bowdoin squad that tied its all-time school record with 19 victories on the year. Tufts' defense was encouraging, but its normally potent offense could muster only 66 points, the Jumbos' second lowest total of the year. With the win, the Polar Bears clinched a first-round home game, though a Saturday loss to Bates cost them the No. 2 overall seed.

"The games were slower than usual," Gallant said. "But we did play pretty good D."

The game went back and forth almost throughout, as both teams scored in bunches to keep the score close. At one point an 8-0 run by Tufts tied the game at 37, and it was immediately answered by an 11-0 charge from Bowdoin. Tufts then issued a quick 13-2 response to tie the game at 50.

Pierce led the way with 22 points and five rebounds, and Weitzen added 14 points and eight boards. The third of Weitzen's three three-pointers gave Tufts a 55-53 lead, but a 10-0 run from Bowdoin meant that Tufts never led again in the game, though they did cut the lead to one point after back-to-back three-pointers from Pierce.

The close win for Bowdoin helped the Polar Bears stay in the top of the bracket in the fourth seed, which earned them a weekend rematch with fifth-seeded Bates.