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

Jumbos take two of three over winter break

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Tufts sophomore forward Tom Palleschi leaps above a defender in a contested shot attempt on Dec. 3, 2014.

After a dispiriting 3-6 start to what the men's basketball team had hoped would be a promising season, the Jumbos used their time off this winter break to regroup before returning to campus early. They then played three games over eight days, winning two, including their biggest win of the season over the Middlebury Panthers, who entered the game with a 9-1 record.

In Tufts' biggest game of the season to date, it rose to the challenge, trouncing Middlebury 80-63 this past Sunday.

Sophomore guard Tarik Smith led the Jumbos with a team-high 20 points off the bench. He hit all eight of his free throws and went 5-of-7 from the field. Tufts shot the ball well overall, making 53.4 percent of its attempts on the night, and shot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half.

The Jumbos dictated the first half with help from sophomore tri-captain forward Tom Palleschi, who poured in 10 points and grabbed five rebounds, three of them on the offensive glass. After taking a 12-point lead into the locker room at halftime, Tufts saw its lead evaporate after a 21-9 Middlebury run, capped by a 3-pointer from junior forward Connor Huff to tie the score at 47 with 13:50 remaining.Smith responded with a 3-pointer of his own to halt the Panthers' momentum, and the Jumbos did not trail again in the game, despite Panthers senior forward Dylan Sinnickson’s 25 points.

“Against Middlebury, I just played aggressive and took what the defense was giving me on offense,” Smith said.

The closest the Panthers would get to regaining the lead was at the 10:46 mark, when senior co-captain guard Dean Brierley sunk a pair of free throws to bring them within six points. An 8-0 run -- four scored by junior tri-captain guard Stephen Haladyna -- pushed Tufts' lead back to double digits.

The Jumbos outrebounded Middlebury 37-28, with senior tri-captain guard Ben Ferris and Palleschi pulling in seven rebounds apiece.

Earlier in the week, Tufts faced Rhode Island College at Cousens Gym, and RIC escaped with a 61-58 win. The game was a tight contest throughout, and neither team held more than a one-possession lead for the final 10-plus minutes of the game.

“Being able to compete with a team who made a run in the NCAA last year is promising for us,” sophomore center Hunter Sabety said. “We are still a young team and are getting better and better every day.”

Junior guard Ryan Spadaford scored 19 points off the bench, hitting five 3-pointers, including one at the 3:30 mark of the game that gave the Jumbos a 56-55 lead. Tufts took a three-point lead after an offensive rebound by Ferris and two free throws by Sabety, who tallied 10 points in the game. Senior forward Chris Burton scored the final six points of the game for Rhode Island College, who improved to 9-3 on the season. Tufts was unable to tie the game, with a 3-pointer in the final seconds missing its mark.

“The game against RIC helped us realize we have to stay focused on every possession,” Smith said.

The first game Tufts played in the new year came at home against Newbury College on Jan. 6. Twelve Jumbos scored in the game, led by Sabety’s game-high 19 points, en route to an 80-53 victory. The game was close for the first 10 minutes, but Tufts took a commanding 49-25 lead into the locker room with the help of some stellar play from its reserves, who outscored Newbury's bench 43-17 in the game.Freshman guard Stefan Duvivier scored 10 points and corralled seven rebounds off the bench for Tufts, while sophomore forward Drew Madsen scored eight points, hauled in six rebounds, and dished out two of the Jumbos’ 21 assists

“When we got back everybody was ready to play and we got right to practicing,” Sabety said. “Playing Newbury allowed us to get back into the swing of things and realize that we are a team with a lot of potential and can make a big run in the NESCAC.”

The Jumbos worked efficiently, shooting 50.8 percent from the field and outrebounding the Nighthawks 53-32. Sophomore forward Kenny Ramos led Newbury in scoring with 15 points, and senior guard Kwame Thompson scored 13 points off the bench in his season debut for Newbury.

Tufts will look to build momentum off of its win over Middlebury with conference games at No. 25 Amherst on Friday and Trinity on Saturday.