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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, June 22, 2024


The Setonian

Men's Basketball | Jumbos ready for crucial NESCAC weekend against Trinity, Amherst

As the men's basketball season begins to come to a close, the Jumbos enter their most crucial part of the season, a two game road-trip against NESCAC foes Trinity and Amherst. As of Feb. 8, the NESCAC rankings have Tufts plotted at the No. 4 spot, with Trinity one ahead at No. 3 and Amherst atop the conference standings at the No. 1 spot. No spot is secure, however, as a Jumbo sweep this weekend could very put them in the top spot, assuring home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, an advantage which would definitely come as a huge boost to the team's confidence. Having played five games in the last two weeks, the Jumbos have had to carefully monitor their health, and with two games left in the season the last thing coach Bob Sheldon needs are injuries or fatigue. "At the start of the season we played with an 11- or 12-man roster," coach Sheldon said. "Now we have tightened it up to about 9, but I think that playing that 11- to 12-man roster in the middle of the season helped save some energy so the guys aren't tired now." Senior tri-captain Brian Fitzgerald said that fatigue had no place in a weekend with so much at stake. "This weekend is so big for us," Fitzgerald said. "We simply have to suck it up and go all out for this weekend." While fatigue is a possible season-spoiler for any team, the Jumbos have the luxury of coming into the NESCAC weekend with a seven-game winning streak under their belts. However, while its confidence is high, the team is cautious with regards to the winning steak. "This is the second time I think we've have a big winning steak," Fitzgerald said, referring to a stretch beginning in late December during which the Jumbos won six of seven games. "We came off that winning streak with an extremely big loss against Williams. We can't afford to get too confident." With the tension building up to the weekend, the Jumbos will need to be at their best. With a high-scoring offense and a gritty defense, Sheldon will be prescribing more of the same. Junior guard Dave Shepherd was the first the first to highlight the Jumbos' game plan ahead of this Friday's game. "We aren't going to do anything different or make any drastic changes," Shepherd said. "We have been successful this season by bringing our up-tempo offense along with our intense effort on defense." Although the Jumbos have all the necessary tools to sweep their opposition this weekend, execution of their game plan will be imperative, as the two teams facing them have the ability to turn any mistake into a big play. "[Trinity and Amherst] are just really good," said Shepherd. "They are great offensively and are very dominant in the posts. They shoot the ball well and are extremely solid on defense." With the pressure looming over the Jumbos' camp, Sheldon's team hopes to turn its seven-game winning streak into a nine-game run while picking up a first-place NESCAC seed in the process.

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