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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Tufts holds steady to secure win over ECSU

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Senior center Hayley Kanner attempts to block a layup during a 74-51 victory over Brandeis in Cousens Gym on Nov. 22.

The women's basketball team continued its undefeated start to the season with a 63-51 win over Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) on Tuesday, winning its 11th consecutive road game to continue a streak that began last season. The win improved the Jumbos' record to 5-0 while the Eastern Connecticut State Warriors fell to 4-1.

Both teams began the matchup undefeated, with ECSU averaging a 37-point margin of victory over its first four games, the closest game being a 76-63 road win over Emmanuel on Nov. 18. Tufts came into the game averaging a 24-point margin of victory and, save for a 63-58 win against University of New England (UNE) in the opening weekend Ramada Roundball Invitational tournament, had similarly blown out every opponent thus far.

But the Jumbos faced a real test on Tuesday, fighting off a tenacious Warriors team that went on a 16-2 run to erase a 15-point deficit five minutes into the second half. This forced the Jumbos to match the Warriors' play after a strong start in the second half.

"We started to pull away and by halftime we were winning by 13, but after halftime our energy was low again and Eastern Conn. was able to go on a big run on us," sophomore forward Michela North said. "We took a timeout to regroup and compose ourselves and think about hitting shots and finding open players."

The Jumbos then pushed their lead back to 10, with help from a 3-pointer by senior tri-captain Hannah Foley and a pair of buckets from first-year forward Melissa Baptista, to bring the score to 44-34 with 12 minutes left in the second half. The Warriors continued their attempt to chip away at the Jumbos' lead, until senior trip-captain Kelsey Morehead's 3-point field goal essentially sealed Tufts' victory, pushing the lead back to 15, 60-45, with 3:32 left in the game.

"It was a big win for NCAA purposes. Competition-wise we're able to size up other teams based on this one, and they [were] also undefeated," North said. "It was a big win also because they're a very scrappy team, and it was good knowing that we can beat that kind of team."

The Jumbos held the Warriors to 37 percent (20-54) shooting from the floor despite the Warriors' 31-29 edge over the Jumbos on the boards. The Jumbos were successful at interfering with the Warriors' passing lanes, forcing 15 turnovers and holding the home team to just six assists of the game, less than half of the number of assists the team has averaged on the season (14.4).

The Jumbos' offense was led by the play of senior tri-captain Hayley Kanner, who was the game's top scorer with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting during a game in which her team outscored its opponents 34-18 in the paint. She was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line, while picking up eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in 35 minutes of play.

"We always have a game the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and we always call it a trap game because everyone's minds are on going home and Thanksgiving, so it's great to come out of it with a win," Kanner said. "There were a lot of things [in the Eastern Conn. gym] that we don't usually have to deal with when we play at home, but when our shots weren't falling, we did a good job of looking inside, and we had a huge height advantage in the post, so me and Michela had a bit of a fun night."

Despite Tufts' strong start to the season, its game against ECSU is the second game, along with the Nov. 16 game against UNE, in which the Jumbos have had to rely on leads built up in the first half. In both games the Jumbos were outscored in the second half, with UNE edging Tufts 37-35 and ECSU leading by a 35-34 margin.

Kanner, though, thinks that this says more about UNE and ECSU than about Tufts.

"I don't know what it says about us, but the first thing I think of when I hear that [both UNE and Eastern Conn. outscored us in the second halves] is that goes to show how strong those opponents were, how they weren't going to back down when we're up at the half," Kanner said. "I think both UNE and Eastern Conn. are very, very strong teams, and it shows that they're not going to get pushed over [despite being down]."

Tufts takes on undefeated Wheaton College today at 7 p.m.

"Wheaton is another undefeated team, so we're learning about their offense, and figuring out how we can get around their defense," North said. "We're looking at personnel, doing our scout team to make sure we're ready for them. For ourselves, we go over defense every single day in almost every single drill, so we'll be prepared for them."