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

Jumbos earn two more NESCAC wins on the road

Tufts went on the road this past weekend, taking on Conn. College on Friday and Wesleyan on Saturday. The squad defeated both teams easily, extending its record of 20+ winning point margins to seven straight with a 69-48 victory over Conn. College and a 77-53 win over Wesleyan.

On Saturday, Tufts went to work against Wesleyan, recording its 12th consecutive win against the team. After an explosive offensive start to the game, with each team scoring 21 points each in the first 11 minutes, the Jumbos went on a 21-8 streak to take a 42-29 halftime lead.

The Cardinals scored the first two baskets to open the second half to pull within nine, but an 11-2 run put the Jumbos up by 18 with 15:26 remaining. Despite senior co-captain Jess Cherenza's team-high 16 point effort, Wesleyan got no closer than 13 the rest of the day.

"It's always hard to play a second game in a NESCAC weekend, especially on the road, but it was one of those games where you just need to pull out and get a win," senior tri-captain Hayley Kanner said.

First-year forward Melissa Baptista led all scorers with a career-high 27 points off 8-of-15 shooting, 10-of-11 from the free throw line in just 20 minutes of action.

"To start, 27 points in a NESCAC game is absolutely incredible, and I think she's really starting to play with a lot of confidence," Kanner said. "She understands what the offense is looking for, what we're looking for from her and she's been connecting. I think it's just the start of what she's capable of. She came in with a very strong skill set and coach [Carla Berube] is doing a great job rounding her out a little more. She's got some great post-moves now and she's got a strong future with the program."

Baptista credited the offensive sets for providing her with the opportunity to succeed.

"I was just scoring off the plays, I didn't really realize how much I had scored until after the game," Baptista said.

Senior tri-captain Hannah Foley scored 19 points on the day, going 5-of-7 from beyond the arc to put her career total at 994 points, just six short of becoming the 12th player in Tufts history to reach 1,000 points. Kanner, who reached the 1,000 point milestone on Jan. 17, and sophomore center Michela North contributed 10 rebounds each, with the Jumbos outrebounding the Cardinals 51-34.

"I'm still working on getting open more and holding the field so the guards can give me the ball easier," North said. "We've been playing taller [opponents the] same size as me, and I think just cutting down on turnovers and working on getting open will help me get to the basket easier."

The Jumbos had double the number of assists the Cardinals had, 20 to the Cardinals' 10, led by first-year point guard Lauren Dillon's nine assists. Dillon is currently ranked fifth in the conference averaging 3.3 assists per game, and the Jumbos lead the conference as a team in number of assists per game at 16.9.

The day before, Tufts took on a strong Conn. College team (14-5 of the season, 4-2 in the NESCAC), who had narrowly beaten Wesleyan, 59-54, on Jan. 24. First-year forward Mairead Hynes helped the Camels overcome a 10-point deficit against the Cardinals, and finished the game with 23 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, en route to being named NESCAC Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 26.  Hynes and sophomore guard Liz Malman are currently the second and third top scorers per game in the conference at 17.2 and 16.0 points per game, respectively.

"Conn. College is vastly improved this year; they have a freshman who's been killing it this year, and she pulled a number on us as well," Kanner said.

The duo carried most of the scoring weight for their team against Tufts, scoring more than half of their team's total points, but Hynes' game-high 18 points was not enough against a Tufts team that had four players in double figures. The first half was a back-and-forth duel between the two teams until Tufts' 6-0 run in the waning minutes of the half put the Jumbos ahead by seven, 37-3o, heading into the locker rooms.

The second half was a much more lopsided story, in a narrative that has become increasingly common for Tufts. The Jumbos allowed just 18 more points in the final 20 minutes of the game, holding the Camels to 26.1 percent (6-of-23) shooting, while North and Dillion picked up 10 points apiece in the half. North finished with 10 rebounds and 17 points off 8-of-15 shooting. North currently leads the NESCAC in field goal percentage, shooting 58.5 percent for the season. She is followed by teammate Kanner, whose 52.6 field goal percentage places her third in the NESCAC.

"It definitely happened with the Conn. game [that] we were able to out-run them, get a lot of fast breaks and points in transition," North said. "We realized we're more of a second half team, but we don't want to rest on that, and we want to figure out how we want to change that because it's a lot harder to come out strong in the second half. If we come out like that in the first half it'll be a lot easier for us to keep our energy up. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we can out-run a lot of teams, [have] more stamina throughout the game and we're able to keep up the energy with all 40 minutes."

Tufts will be looking to improve on coming out with energy in the first half as its regular season comes down to the wire with just two weeks and five games remaining.

"For the upcoming games, we'll be working on our weaknesses," Baptista said. "We've been keeping teams close in the beginning, a couple of games we began the second half tied and then we beat them by 20 at the end. Consistent energy and play are some things we'll work on so when it comes to the NESCAC Championship and the NCAA tournament where games are do-or-die, we won't have to rely just on second half play."