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

Tufts steamrolls Amherst, Trinity with strong second halves

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Tufts senior center Hayley Kanner goes for a layup in her team's 65-42 win over Amherst on Jan. 16, 2015.

Heading into the crucial NESCAC stretch of the season, the No. 7 women’s basketball team established its dominance in the conference early with a 65-42 victory over No. 3 Amherst on Friday and a 70-46 routing of Trinity on Saturday. With the pair of wins, the Jumbos move to 14-1 on the season and 3-0 in conference play.

Against both Amherst and Trinity, strong second-half play proved key for Tufts.

The first half against Trinity ended in a 30-30 stalemate. It was a back-and-forth half during which neither team was able to pull ahead by more than five points. The Jumbos shot just 12-of-36 (33.3 percent) from the field in the first half and were just 3-of-15 (20 percent) from distance, while the Bantams shot 11-of-22 (50 percent) from the field and were 2-of-3 from distance, recording just two assists compared with the Jumbos’ nine.

The Jumbos ended the half with seven scorers to the Bantams’ four. The Jumbos tied the game at 30 apiece despite a nearly five-minute long scoreless drought in which the Jumbos missed four straight shots and turned the ball over twice.

“We were still a little bit slow from the night before, Trinity came with a lot of energy and a lot of game and it showed,” senior tri-captain forward Hayley Kanner said. “They had a great half. We can’t allow those lapses to occur. We need a do a better job maintaining our focus and our energy and not waiting for the second half or a fiery halftime speech to get us into that mindset.”

The second half started with five quick points from the Bantams off a 3-pointer from first-year forward Taylor Higgins and a jumper from junior center Mackenzie Griffin in the first minute. However, their momentum was stopped by senior guard Hannah Foley’s 3-pointer after which the Jumbos went to work against the Bantams, holding the opposition to just 11 more points in the final 19 minutes of the game.

The Jumbos’ 40 second-half points were fueled by Kanner, who scored nine in the half and finished the night with 17 points en route to becoming just the 11th player in Tufts history to reach 1,000 career points.

“It feels great,” Kanner said. “I’m so happy I got [to this milestone] on alumi weekend with a lot family and friends. It’s just a huge marking to how successful our team has been, [going deep] into the postseason and I’ve been fortunate to stay healthy, so it’s just a big award for a lot of people.”

The day before, the Jumbos handed the Amherst Lord Jeffs their first loss of the season and moved into second place in the NESCAC. The Jumbos are now just one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference, the other being the Polar Bears of Bowdoin.

Tufts tried to set the tone early on, scoring first off of sophomore center Michela North’s layup in the opening 20 seconds and forcing two turnovers within the first two minutes, but found itself in a 14-6 hole early on after a 12-2 run by Amherst. The Jumbos were forced to play catch-up, and their offense was ignited by the play of first-year forward Melissa Baptista, who came off the bench and scored seven points in less than two minutes to regain the lead for Tufts, 16-14.

Baptista scored another 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the first half to pull Tufts ahead 24-23, but was forced to sit after picking up three fouls. Her teammates extended the Tufts’ lead to 32-25 at the half.

Tufts pulled away from Amherst in the second half with strong post play from its frontcourt. Kanner, North and Baptista all scored 3-point plays despite the best efforts of Amherst’s 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Meredith Doswell.

First-year guard Lauren Dillon, in just her fifth career start filling in for the injured senior guard Kelsey Morehead, had 10 of the Jumbos’ 15 assists against Amherst.

“Kelsey’s been starting since she was a freshman so she has the most experience on this team, and trying to fill those shoes as a freshman when you really don’t have much experience is scary,” North said. “Lauren was just getting a couple of minutes here and there and to go from that to playing 30, 35 minutes a game is scary [but] I think she’s really stepped up and taken that leadership role on the court.”

Dillon credited her teammates and coaching staff for helping her transition to the difficult role of game manager.

“It’s been an adjustment but the whole team has really helped me do it, from the coaching staff giving me extra attention, to the team trusting me a lot more and also Kelsey has been a huge help — she’ll give me tips throughout the game and throughout practice, so it’s really been a team effort,” Dillon said.

Tufts’ 65 points against Amherst were lead by Kanner’s game-high 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting; she showed her range by knocking down both her 3-point attempts. Baptista finished with 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting — including two 3-pointers — despite playing just ten minutes because of early foul trouble. She eventually fouled out at the 7:50 mark in the second half.

“I feel like I was very decisive about what I was going to do offensively and my shots were falling in so that just worked in our favor,” Baptista said. “For future games, I’ll be looking to get myself out of foul trouble for one, and just continue to create plays for myself and my teammates.”

According to North, the most difficult part of the weekend was maintaining energy and focus for both contests.

“Coming out to a big Amherst game on Friday and to find the energy for the next game against Trinity is usually pretty difficult to do,” North said. “When you win a huge game on a high, everyone thinks you won’t be able to come out and repeat that kind of win again the next day, but we did and we beat both teams by over 20 points.”

Tufts will be looking to carry the momentum of this weekend forward as it takes on non-conference opponent Emmanuel on Jan. 21 before three-straight conference games against Bates, Conn. College and Wesleyan.