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

Jumbos suffer first conference loss, remain at .500 for season

Senior tri-captain guard Ben Ferris looks to score.

After starting the NESCAC season 3-0, the men’s basketball team returned to action with a non-conference game against UMass-Boston on Thursday and then played on the road at Bates on Saturday. The team won on Thursday night at Cousens Gym, extending its winning streak to four games before falling at Alumni Gym to the Bobcats.

The Jumbos entered the tilt against the Bobcats in first place in the NESCAC standings after an impressive three-game win streak to start conference play. In the beginning stages of the game, it did not seem as if Tufts would skip a beat. The Jumbos started strong from behind the arc, making four of their first six 3-pointers. Senior tri-captain Ben Ferris connected from downtown to open the scoring of the game, and after two deep balls from junior Ryan Spadaford and another from first-year point guard Thomas Lapham, the Jumbos led 14-4.

“I think since I had my first start before NESCAC play, the team has come out strong with positive energy from the get-go,” Spadaford said. “We have been able to come out fired up, which was a problem in the early part of the season.”

Tufts led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but Bates fought back. A last-second jumper by junior guard Mike Boornazian made the score 34-32 in favor of Tufts as the teams headed into the locker room, despite Tufts’ 50 percent shooting from the field in the first half. The Bobcats’ defense clamped down on the Jumbos in the second half, holding the Jumbos’ offense to a significantly lower 22.6 shooting percentage. Bates led by a score of 42-41 at the 13:58 mark of the game before going on an 18-3 run to effectively put the game out of reach, eventually winning by a score of 64-51. Boornazian led Bates in scoring with 20 points, while sophomore center Hunter Sabety scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Tufts. Joining Sabety in double figures were sophomore tri-captain center Tom Palleschi and sophomore point guard Tarik Smith, who had 11 and ten points, respectively.

“I was used to being the only big, but playing alongside Hunter has allowed me to develop an outside shot,” Palleschi said.

Despite these scoring performances, the Jumbos’ 51-point game is one of the lowest scoring games for the team, the lowest having been a 52-50 loss to Babson on Dec. 7. 

“What really hurt us was not communicating in transition,” Spadaford said. “Bates was able to push the ball on us for fast break points. We got killed in the second half because our offense got too stagnant and we didn’t play with any fire.”

The loss dropped Tufts to 3-1 in the NESCAC, which places it third behind Bowdoin and Trinity, which each have a 4-1 record in conference play. The Jumbos, however, stepped out of conference play with a game against UMass-Boston on Thursday night. Tufts would lead for the majority of the game on its way to an 80-67 victory, which extended its since-ended winning streak to four games. The Jumbos were led by Sabety, who went 9-9 from the field on his way to 24 points, first-year Vincent Pace, who scored a career-high 18 points and Smith, who scored 16 points. The underclassmen trio scored 58 of Tufts’ 80 points in the game, and the Jumbos shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the game.

“I think we had great ball movement in which we were able to get everyone shots,” Spadaford said. “We are at our best when our bigs and guards are all moving with and without the ball on the offensive end.”

UMass-Boston would hang around for most of the game, but the deciding run came after a jumper from Beacons senior co-captain Carl Joseph made the score 58-51 in favor of Tufts. Two 3-pointers by Smith and another from Pace in a span of 1:20 pushed Tufts’ lead to 67-53 with five minutes remaining in the game. Tufts led by at least 11 points for the rest of the game.

The Jumbos now sit at 8-8 with key NESCAC games coming up. The team plays two home games this coming weekend against Connecticut College (7-9, 0-4 NESCAC) on Friday night and against Wesleyan (13-5, 2-2 NESCAC) on Saturday afternoon.