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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Men's basketball defeats Bates 71–70 in frantic comeback win

Senior Eric Savage goes for a layup at the NESCAC championship game against Colby in Cousens Gym on March 1, 2020.

Unable to take a lead in the first half against the Bates Bobcats, Tufts went full throttle until the final buzzer. Thanks to junior guard Dylan Thoerner's layup with ten seconds left on the clock and 55 combined points from Thoerner and senior big man Luke Rogers, the final scoreboard sounded with a 71–70 Jumbos win. 

With two minutes left to go and Tufts facing a 70–63 deficit coach Brandon Linton turned to his star big man, who tossed in a soft hook shot. Rogers then made a great defensive play, getting his fingertips on a Bates 3-point attempt and directing it to Thoerner, who found Rogers for a dunk at the other end. 

Rogers continued to do it all, taking a charge on the following Bates possession to give the Jumbos a chance to tie. Instead, Thoerner hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to one.

“Luke is ... our quarterback at the defensive end, our back line,” guard Tyler Aronson said, “It’s huge having him back.” 

Rogers had 32 points and 15 rebounds in his monster effort, also hitting only the second 3-pointer of his career at a critical juncture midway through the second half. 

The Bobcat scoring drought continued as guard Simon McCormick missed a 3-pointer, setting the stage for Thoerner’s eventual game-winning finish. Thoerner's lay-in gave him 23 points on the night and pushed the Jumbos to a 2–1 NESCAC record, with a 7–8 record overall on the season. 

“I think this game was a culmination of all the work we’ve put in, stuff we’ve talked about and all the games we’ve played," Aronson, a junior, said. "We knew with two minutes left, we just had to keep whittling away at the lead. It’s huge for us to be able to finish games like that.”

The Jumbos battled with Bates throughout the first half, never gaining a lead but never trailing by more than 8, going into halftime down 31–26. Led by Rogers and a pair of buckets from junior guard Theo Henry, the Jumbos secured their first lead of the night at 40–37, just after halftime.

From there, it was an end-to-end game, with Rogers and Thoerner trading baskets with Bates guard Stephon Baxter and forward Jacob Iwowo. The Tufts defense held Baxter to 13 points on 5–16 shooting from the field, well off his Bobcat-leading 21.2 points per game average and 44% field goal percentage.

After a few tight losses earlier in the season plus a majority of blowout wins, winning this game feels like a major turning point for the Jumbos.

“It definitely boosts our team morale," Aronson said. "It’s big wins like these that we’re putting all the work in for."

The Jumbos offense has been rolling as of late, winning their last three games. They return home and will need to keep the momentum going in their next matchup against the high-performing, 15–2 (3–0) Wesleyan University Cardinals.