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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

Tufts men’s basketball takes a hard-fought win against Williams College

The Jumbos came back from a first half deficit to keep the game close and take the win at the end of the second half.

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Khai Champion is pictured on Jan. 26 against Williams College.

With a win at home against Bates College the weekend prior, the Tufts men’s basketball team was ready to take on Williams College and Middlebury College over the weekend. Both games had important implications for the NESCAC, especially for the Jumbos as their conference record sat at 1–3. In the last seven years, no team has won the NESCAC with a conference record worse than 7–3, making losing more than three games extremely detrimental to championship hopes.

For the Jumbos, the focus going into Friday was connecting both halves of the game and making sure they played a good game in its entirety.

“I think our approach has been getting much better and much more consistent in that we just value possessions more,” junior guard Khai Champion said. “We’re fighting harder on the defensive side and securing rebounds and doing all the little things so that we can put ourselves in the best position to be in a good spot [in the] first and second half.”

Walking into the game against the Jumbos, the Williams Ephs were yet to be defeated, sitting at 5–0 in conference play. Williams started off extremely well, and were up by 8 points before a single point was scored for Tufts.

“They came out, and they threw the first punch. They started off hot, and we started off the opposite, a little cold,” Champion said.

With eight minutes left in the first half, thanks to a three from Ephs guard Cole Prowitt-Smith, the Ephs were up 14 points with a game score of 27–13. The Jumbos were certainly not out of the game yet though, and an 11–0 run led by Champion and senior guard Casey McLaren, who both had 3-pointers, cut down the lead to just 3 points.

The Tufts players were frustrated at the lackluster first half.

“We've been a second-half team throughout the year. That's something we try to grow away from,” sophomore forward Scott Gyimesi said. “What we try to say is let's string 40 minutes together and no one can stop us. So we were sort of aggravated at ourselves for letting that happen.”

The Jumbos bounced back, making the next 20 minutes of the game much more similar to the end of the first half.

The second half was a far closer ballgame, with the lead swaying between both teams and never going higher than 3 points until the last minute of the half. Champion tied the game with a jumper with just three minutes to go before the Jumbos managed to extend the lead to 5 points thanks to a jumper from senior guard Jay Dieterle, a free throw from Gyimesi and two free throws from first-year guard Jon Medley. The evening ended 62–57 in favor of the Jumbos.

From a statistics perspective, Champion led the Jumbos with 18 points, shooting 7-for-16 from the field and 3-for-9 from behind the arc. Sophomore guard James Morakis had 10 points, shooting 4-for-9 from the field, while Gyimesi had 6 points and 14 rebounds. The team as a whole shot 41.4% from the field, going 7-for-24 on 3-point shots. On the Ephs’ side of the ball, guard Noah Dinkins had 15 points, shot 6-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc, while center Nate Karren and forward Brandon Roughley followed up with 10 points each. The Ephs shot 39% from the field and went 8-for-25 on threes.

The team followed up the hard-fought win on Friday night by challenging the Middlebury Panthers on Saturday afternoon. Against the Panthers, the Jumbos never let the lead fall out of their hands. The game ended 82–60 in favor of the Jumbos. Morakis had a stand out game, putting up 24 points, going 2-for-3 from behind the arc and 9-for-14 from the field. The Jumbos shot 55.7% from inside the arc and 30.8% from 3-point range, while the Panthers shot 39.3% from the field and 41.2% from behind the arc.

The squad heads away from home for the next two NESCAC battles, taking on Colby College on Friday and Bowdoin College on Saturday.