Men’s basketball returned to Cousens Gymnasium in triumphant fashion on Saturday, notching a commanding win in their third consecutive conference matchup. Coming off of a disappointing road stint that saw two losses in the opening games of NESCAC play, the Tufts Jumbos burst onto their home court reinvigorated and proceeded to flatten the Bates Bobcats in front of a robust crowd of spectators. Though Bates jumped out to an early 12–7 lead, Tufts responded with an 11–0 run following a timeout and retained momentum for the remainder of the contest. Enthusiastic fans, timely 3-pointers and a behemoth second-half dunk from sophomore center Josh Bernstein punctuated the victory, giving the Jumbos a well-earned ego boost ahead of a pair of important weekend games.
Tufts suffered a close loss to Hamilton on Jan. 13, falling 87–82 to a team with an overall record of 8–7.
“I think we kind of got away from Tufts basketball,” Bernstein said. “In the Bates game, I think we were sharing the ball at a much higher rate, and I think we were playing more team basketball. I think at Hamilton, we were doing that at a lesser rate than how Tufts normally operates.”
Even with the loss, Bernstein managed 8 points and nine rebounds against Hamilton, but he kicked into high gear against Bates for his best game of the new year. He led the scoring with 16 points and added eight rebounds, two steals and two momentum-crushing blocks.
“I think on defense, it helps [to be] tall,” the 6-foot-11 Bernstein explained. “Against non-shooting bigs, I would say that we have an emphasis on the big man, my position, helping off the ball at all times, so it really allows me to be more versatile in the paint and under the rim when other people are driving.”
Bernstein’s elite vision and ability to create space as he worked off the ball allowed him to execute the aforementioned two-handed dunk with about 15 minutes left in the second half, and Cousens erupted. The play developed as a series of four quick, uninterrupted passes, with the final assist from sophomore forward Scott Gyimesi who shoveled it to Bernstein right under the rim for the finish.
The Jumbos combined for a total of 27 fast break points, and their ability to score quickly in transition provided a unique challenge for the opposing defense.
“We always pride ourselves on being a faster and deeper team than our opponents,” Bernstein said. “We know that we can sprint and we know that we have bodies on the bench that are ready to go, that are skilled enough to go even when we're tired.”
Tufts will prepare for a pair of NESCAC games this upcoming weekend against Williams and Middlebury.
“We’re really locked into that weekend right now,” Bernstein said. “The key word of the week is focus because I think that's what we kind of lost against Hamilton, and what we lost out in California when we began losing. I think we were just out of focus with our own brand of basketball.”
The Jumbos face the Ephs on Friday at 7 p.m. in Cousens Gymnasium, and Bernstein is expecting a dogfight. “We beat [Williams] last year at their place, so we know that they're going to come back strong with a vengeance,” he said.