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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Undefeated at home, women’s basketball enters the NESCAC as the No. 1 seed

The Tufts women's basketball team is pictured on Feb. 11.

Cousens Gym witnessed some thrilling basketball this weekend as Tufts extended its winning streak to six with triumphs over NESCAC opponents Wesleyan and Trinity. First, the Jumbos took on the Wesleyan Cardinals in what turned out to be a comfortable victory with several standout performances. Sophomore guard Sofia Gonzalez led the scoring with 17 points while junior forward Maggie Russell racked up 14 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six assists. Sophomore forward Caitlyn O’Boyle registered 14 points and nine rebounds. 

Despite a close first five minutes, the Jumbos pulled away with a 7–0 run powered by a three-pointer from sophomore forward Annika Decker. A strong defensive display kept the Cardinals to just 9 points in the first quarter. The second quarter was more competitive, but the Jumbos managed to outscore the visitors.

Both teams were strong in the paint, but the Jumbos excelled in their second-chance point conversions and dominated in points off turnovers (20–10). Tufts continued its strong bench performance with 27 points compared to just 11 from Wesleyan. 

“I think our main takeaway from the Wesleyan game was the importance of us setting the tone early on so that we were always in control of the game,” Russell wrote in an email to the Daily. “It was really important for us to keep attacking on offense and getting stops on defense so that we could build our lead.”

Russell reflected on achieving her career-high assist tally.

“It felt good. I’m always looking to make great passes to my teammates and to put us in the best position to score,” Russell wrote. “We have so many great scorers on our team and we were able to finish really well against Wesleyan.” 

Gonzalez affirmed Russell’s comments, attributing the Jumbos’ scoring success to their ability to pass the ball up the court.

“We played very well by passing the ball and making one more pass. This allowed us to score easily in transition and also allowed us to find success when they were in a 2-3 zone,” Gonzalez wrote in an email to the Daily. 

The 72–60 victory was the team’s second consecutive win by double digits and set the tone for a memorable Senior Day match-up against No. 12 Trinity College. 

A tightly contested game down to the wire began with Trinity establishing an 11–3 lead before the Jumbos fought back in a 14–2 run powered by O’Boyle off the bench. Both teams continued scoring in the second quarter, but two crucial 3-pointers from Gonzalez, who led the scoring with 18 points, gave the Jumbos an 8-point halftime lead. 

The second half matched the competitive tempo set in the first, as Trinity rallied to go on a 19–7 run in the last nine minutes of the game before taking the lead with just under 30 seconds remaining. After tight defensive plays on both sides, Russell found herself at the line with 1.7 seconds to go and made no mistake, giving the Jumbos a nail-biting 57–56 win. 

“I do my best to stay focused and keep my mind clear. I just tell myself that I’ve done this a million times,” Russell wrote, recalling the final seconds at the line. 

Decker, who played all 40 minutes, managed six rebounds, four assists, and 5 points while junior guard Samantha Sousa and O’Boyle put up 7 points each. Despite losing out in the paint, the Jumbos capitalized on second-chance points and fast breaks, including 5 in the last quarter.

Gonzalez credited the win against Trinity to Tufts’ hard work and energy and commented on its approach going into the NESCAC tournament.

“The main takeaway from this game was not to give up on small details because they will come back in the end,” Gonzalez wrote. “The team is feeling pretty good but we know our work isn’t over yet. We are still hungry to win and will continue to work hard and be focused for these upcoming games.” 

Tufts will host Bowdoin College at home in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Saturday.