Despite fighting until the very last minute, the Tufts men’s basketball team fell to NESCAC rival Bates College in a hard-fought away game 67–63. The defeat drops the Jumbos to 13–4 on the season and a 2–2 record in NESCAC play while Bates improves to 7–10 overall and 1–3 in the NESCAC.
Despite the Jumbos coming in with the better record, it was Bates who took an early lead, with a 3-pointer from guard Steph Baxter giving the Bobcats a 12–4 lead after five minutes of playing time.
“First of all, you [have to] give credit to Bates, good team this year, good coach, they had a good game plan for us,” senior guard Carson Cohen said. “We really talked about valuing the ball and taking advantage of our possessions, and I think we kind of got away from that, even from the beginning.”
The Jumbos responded with an 11–2 run capped off by a jumper from first-year guard James Morakis to retake the lead. The rest of the first half saw both teams trade baskets before a 10–2 run saw the Jumbos take a 32–25 lead back to the locker room.
That momentum carried into the second half, with Tufts leading by as many as 8 points near the halfway point. However, Bates would begin to find some momentum of their own, slowly breaking down the Jumbos’ defense before taking a 62–61 lead with under two minutes remaining after a layup from first-year guard Elliott Cravitz. Bates continued to hold onto the lead after a game-tying attempt from senior guard Dylan Thoerner missed. One free throw from Bates forward Devin Harris was enough to seal the win for the hosts.
Despite outscoring Bates in the paint, turnovers proved to be costly for the Jumbos, as 16 turnovers resulted in 20 points for the Bobcats.
“We pride ourselves on being tough and mature and experienced players, and that didn’t show through our taking care of the ball,” senior guard Tyler Aronson said.
Shooting 33.3% overall from deep, the Jumbos possess numerous players capable of letting it fly. However, Bates was able to limit Tufts to just nine attempts in the game.
“Defensively they were really solid,” Cohen said. “We’re kind of a team that obviously has a lot of good shooters ... so credit to them for getting us off the 3-point line.”
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives for the Jumbos to take away from this game. Thoerner led the team with 18 points, while sophomore forward Trumann Gettings netted 11. Morakis and sophomore guard Khai Champion each had 9 points off the bench.
As a team with a mixture of experience and youth, the Jumbos know they have the depth to compete against anyone, as evidenced by an impressive 26 bench points.
“We have 17 guys that all can really play on this team, so it’s really tough to scout for us,” Aronson said. “Everybody has the opportunity and the skill set to go score and make a play, and that makes us a really dangerous team, especially heading into the later months of the season.”
As seniors, both Cohen and Aronson have long settled into their roles on the court, bringing poise and leadership even when things are not going their way.
“[One thing Head Coach Brandon] Linton preaches, that I like to preach as well, as a point guard, is really just getting set in the offense,” Cohen said. “One of the most important things is just taking it possession by possession.”
“Whether that be rebounding the basketball, guarding, trying to be a good leader for the team, there’s always a way you can help out,” Aronson said. “If you’re not scoring the ball or doing what you want on offense, there’s always ways to help impact the team.”
Pointing to strong wins over Amherst and Hamilton after a loss to Connecticut College earlier in the season, Cohen believes the Jumbos always find a way to respond after a loss.
“We like to look at ourselves as kind of a rebound team, a bounce-back team,” Cohen said. “After the Conn. loss this year, we had two really excellent games the next weekend.”
Up next for the Jumbos are two more games on the road against conference opponents. Tufts travels to Williams on Friday before making the drive up to Vermont for a Saturday showdown against Middlebury. Both opponents are among the strongest in the NESCAC this season, with Middlebury boasting a 15–2 overall record and Williams at 16–2. Despite strong seasons from both teams, Tufts knows they have the ability to compete with any team in the league.
“In our locker room and with our inner circle, we really think that we’re still one of the teams to beat in the league, if not the team to beat,” Cohen said. “Our confidence has not wavered at all yet. We’ll be ready to go for the weekend.”