Returning home after an eight game road trip, the Jumbos were happy to find themselves in the friendly confines of Cousens Gym on Tuesday, defeating Newbury by 36 points. If Tufts can duplicate those results this weekend against the Trinity Bantams and Amherst Lord Jeffs, the men's basketball team won't have to play a game away from its home floor for a long time. The Jumbos, who enter this weekend's play at 6-1 on the conference, have a chance to earn home court advantage throughout the NESCAC Tournament if they can defeat conference powers Trinity and Amherst this weekend. "[Home court advantage throughout the NESCAC Tournament] is huge," coach Bob Sheldon said. "We've already guaranteed the first round. If we win Friday or Saturday, we'll guarantee the second. Coming into Cousens, it's just a great place to play and it'll be packed. We just shoot better and we play a little better at home." The Jumbos face two big obstacles, though, on their quest for first place in the NESCAC. Amherst, 7-0 in the conference, is No. 4 in the country and Trinity, tied with Tufts for second in the conference at 6-1, is No. 25. The Jumbos are excited by the challenge. "We just have got to keep building on the past two wins," sophomore Brian Kumf said. "It's a big weekend. There's going to be a lot of emotion. Everybody's going to play all-out. We're going to score the basketball. We just have to concentrate on defense." That will be a challenge for a Tufts defense that is ranked last in the conference in points allowed per game, while Trinity and Amherst present the second and third best offenses in the conference behind Tufts' conference leading attack. Trinity, which will come to Medford to play at 7 p.m. on Friday, has the No. 1 scorer in the conference in junior Tyler Rhoten. Rhoten, the defending Conference Player of the Week, is averaging 21.8 points per game and is fifth in the conference with 7.9 rebounds a game. Tufts players feel that stopping him will be a key to winning the game. Amherst, on the other hand, has a more balanced offensive attack. "They're just a really great team," Kumf said of the Lord Jeffs. "They've got really great players. They've got a great system. They all hit shots. They all play really good team defense. They're just a really good team." Amherst's effort on the defensive end is apparent as it is allowing a conference low 62.5 points per game. The Jumbo offense is leading the conference scoring 82.8 points a game. The team waited to start preparing for this weekend's games until it had defeated Newbury. "If you think about it too much, you're going to psyche yourself out, so the coaches are going to just have to work hard and scout them," Kumf said. "We played them last year. It's the same two teams. We know what we've got to do. It's the NESCAC so you're pretty familiar with every team." The Jumbos head into the game with momentum, having won three games in a row, including a conference win over Bates. "I think we have good momentum," Sheldon said. "We're loose right now. I think we've showed them that we've got nothing to lose this weekend. We're 6-1. We've earned the right to be in these games this weekend. We're loose and we're going to go in and just play our stuff. We've won three in a row. We hit a little slump but we got it back and we're playing well." The Jumbos have been playing well on the road lately, as they went 5-3 on their eight game road trip. Yet, Sheldon feels the team will be helped immensely by its home court advantage this weekend. "They've got to travel, spend Friday night playing a game, stay in a strange bed, get up and come up here whereas we're going to play Friday here in front of our friends, go home and sleep in our own beds, get up a little later, and come here and play a game at home again," Sheldon said. "Part of it is, in our conference, since we don't travel that much, we're not Division I on the road all the time, the travel wears you out a little bit." If the Jumbos can take care of Trinity and Amherst this weekend, there could be many other NESCAC teams visiting Tufts in the near future.
With the largest margin of victory in the past three seasons, the men's basketball team defeated Newbury College 97-61 on Tuesday in Cousens Gym. The Nighthawks didn't know what hit them as the Jumbos jumped to an early lead and ran away with the game. When the Nighthawks did not break the 10-point barrier until nearly 12 minutes into the first half on 8-31 shooting, they seemed on track to have more turnovers than field goals. Coach Bob Sheldon anticipated the Nighthawks' difficulty scoring against the Jumbos. Confident of a win, he rotated his starters early. "This was a golden opportunity to get some of the guys in that don't play as much," he said. Often Sheldon would substitute three or four players at once, a rotation more reminiscent of ice hockey than college basketball. This exchange kept fresh players on the court and allowed the Jumbos to maintain a high-paced tempo on the floor, one that the Nighthawks, it turned out, simply could not match. Newbury is 2-17 this season, but given the Jumbos' recent upset losses to Keene State and Connecticut College, Sheldon wasn't taking any chances. "He didn't tell us [Newbury's] record or anything like that," sophomore forward Brian Kumf said. "We prepared just like they were any other team." But even before the starting buzzer, Sheldon was envisioning a chance for his team to stretch their legs against some fresh competition. "We really wanted to just blow them out," he said. "Sometimes the starters get tired of practicing against the game guys every day and we need some new people." Tuesday's game was the Jumbos' first back in Cousens since mid-January when the team embarked on an eight-game road trip that began when the rest of the student body was still sleeping and tanning. In reality, the game served as a warm-up for this weekend, when the Jumbos will wrap up the 2004-2005 season with home games against NESCAC rivals No. 22 Trinity and No. 4 Amherst. "It was really good to be home. We got some practice playing again in this gym with the game-like noise," Sheldon said. "Never again will they have to go through that." The Nighthawks gave the Jumbos only one scare when, with 6:25 to play in the first half, they roared back and cut the deficit to nine. But Newbury did not know what to make of Tufts freshman Ryan O'Keefe. For most of the first half, the guard remained somewhat quiet, but exploded as Newbury closed in. Each of O'Keefe's three shots from behind the arc swished through, adding nine of the Jumbos' 13-point push to end the half with a more-than-comfortable 23 point margin. O'Keefe finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-11 shooting. In the second half, Sheldon decided to leave no doubt about the Jumbos' prowess. "I noticed that we had been dominating inside and we had a huge height advantage," he said, "So I told them to go up for the alley-oop." The first few times, the acrobatics failed, but eventually the perfect pass came to junior Dan Martin and he slammed it home. Martin complemented his 15 points with 10 rebounds for the double-double. By the time the 15-minute mark rolled around, the Jumbos were comfortably ahead. The lead dipped below 20 fleetingly, but after an 18-3 Tufts run, the win was never in jeopardy. "There is no doubt that we had a real fun time," Kumf said "It was a definite confidence boost." As the Jumbos' lead grew, Sheldon mixed up the rotation, trying different combinations on the floor and giving the bench ample playing time. Freshman Casey D'Annolfo scored his first points of the season with seven, as did junior Jimmy Edgerton, who converted both of his shots from three-point land. Although the blowout nature of the game precluded any last-second theatrics, senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell put forth the kind of performance the Tufts community has come to expect, going 4-9 from the field and finishing the game with eight points, well below his season average of 18. Sheldon strategically played Stovell for only 15 minutes to keep him fresh for the upcoming games this weekend. With their third consecutive win, the Jumbos moved to 14-8 overall and will head into a weekend of nationally ranked league competition at 6-1 in NESCAC.
Senior co-captain Allison Love made her last collegiate home game a special one Tuesday night, scoring 20 points to lead the Jumbos to a 65-60 win over Salve Regina. Tufts took a slim lead into halftime, 35-33, and the teams went back and forth in the second half. The last five minutes produced some of the most exciting basketball the Jumbos have seen this year. Sophomore Valerie Krah hit a clutch three pointer with 4:52 left that gave Tufts a four-point lead, but Salve answered with a three from junior Meaghan Stapleton. After two free throws from sophomore Taryn Miller-Stevens, Stapleton hit another trifecta to tie the score at 56. That's when Love took over, hitting a three pointer and two free throws. The Jumbos made their foul shots down the stretch to come away with the win. "[Love] is always important to our team," coach Carla Berube said. "With Salve playing a zone for the whole game, it was important for her to make big shots. She made them down the stretch, and got some big rebounds to help us to that win." Love's effort was her last on the Jumbos' home court. "I wasn't really thinking about it," Love said. "In retrospect, it's sort of bittersweet. It's nice to end on a good note, but it's sad that I won't be playing in Cousens again." Against Salve, the whole team played well down the stretch for Tufts. In addition to Love, junior Jessica Powers also had four big points in the last two minutes of the game. "I think [playing well in the clutch] comes from experience," Berube said. "It comes from being in those situations, and not pulling it out. We learned from that, and now they have confidence that they're going to get it done. Players stepped up when we needed them to. Alli and Jess hit big shots, Alli and [junior] Laura Jasinski got some key rebounds, and Taryn hit a couple of huge free throws. I think it does come down to having the confidence to pull the game out." Tufts also played great defense, holding Salve Regina to just 37 percent shooting from the floor. The Tufts defense was especially stingy in the last 30 seconds of the game, foiling two Stapleton three-point attempts and grabbing the rebounds to seal the win. That was the difference in the outcome, as the Jumbos shot only 36 percent themselves on the game. Salve Regina was also forced into 21 turnovers, a testament to Tufts' pressure defense. "We pressured them a little when we wanted to," Berube said. "We threw a little zone at them, and played our typical aggressive man-to-man. They probably scored more than we would have liked them to, but we did a good job at the end to come out with the win in a tight game. The people who needed to step up did." Junior Julia Verplank, who has missed significant time this year with a knee injury, saw only limited action. According to Berube, the injury was bothering Verplank. "This weekend is huge for us. We're going to see if our season's going to continue, so we wanted to save her for that," Berube said. "She really didn't need to play [against Salve Regina]." Verplank was productive in the short time she saw, contributing five points and two steals in just 10 minutes. She has looked good since missing nine straight games, and contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in Tufts' loss to NESCAC-leading Bates last Saturday. Without her, the team relied on Miller-Stevens and sophomore Marilyn Duffy-Cabana at the point guard position. The experience they picked up during Verplank's absence has made the Jumbos a better team. "Taryn's been playing really well," Berube said. "She's been playing with more confidence, and the team really rallied around her. Marilyn has also played very well for us. It's good for the team that other people have had to step up. I think it's made us deeper." Powers and Krah joined Love as the Jumbos' double-digit scorers. Powers had 14 points to go along with seven rebounds, while Krah added 11 points, three assists, and three steals. Love had nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals to go along with her 20 points. Salve was led by junior Lindsay Frederick, freshman sophomore Allison Moen, and Megan Barry, who each scored 12 points. The Seahawks fell to 12-7. "I think everyone stepped up for us," Love said. "We realized it was our last home game and didn't want to end the [home] season on a loss. This weekend will be big for us so we wanted to head into it with a win. It was definitely on the back of everyone's minds." This weekend, the team takes on Trinity and Amherst on the road in its last two games of the season. Tufts currently sits at 1-6 in the NESCAC, on the bubble for a playoff spot, and must defeat Trinity (2-5 in conference play) in order to gain a berth. The Jumbos move to 12-9 on the season with the win, but the season will now hinge on the Trinity game this Friday night.
Playing in a game that had almost crucial implications to the Jumbos' NESCAC chances in a hostile gym on the road, Tufts needed a good start to quiet the crowd. Yet, when the Jumbos looked up at the scoreboard with 11:23 left in the first half, after Bates senior Victor Rivera sank his first free throw, they were confronted with an ugly sight: a 26-12 deficit. Just like that, the long drive up to Lewiston, Maine, seemed like a waste of time as the Jumbos were in danger of falling behind the crowded pack at the top of the NESCAC standings. Yet, the team did not panic. "We were a little rusty to start, but our guys know what we can do," senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell said. "We're a good team. Good teams play hard throughout. That's why being down 14 didn't hurt us. We knew there was plenty of basketball to play." The team's patience was rewarded as things turned around in a hurry. After Rivera missed his second free throw, the Jumbos set their offense and senior Andrew Kaklamanos found sophomore Brian Kumf for a layup. The inside basket got the Jumbos rolling, as they hit five shots in a row, including a three-pointer by freshman Jake Weitzen. With 8:26 remaining in the half, the lead was 29-23. At that point, the Jumbos lost their hot touch, going four plus minutes without a field goal and missing five shots in a row. That's when the defense took over, however. Over that stretch, the Jumbos forced three turnovers and only allowed the Bobcats to shoot 1-4 from the floor. The Jumbos also made six of seven free throws to help them wrestle the lead away from the Bobcats. When junior Dan Martin hit a jumper, Tufts was down only three at 31-28 and it would eventually cap off its 25-9 run with a jumper by junior Brian Fitzgerald to give the team a two-point lead with 1:10 left in the half. The run was a sign of things to come, as the Jumbos would outscore the Bobcats 41-32 in the second half. Stovell was right. There was plenty of basketball left and when time had run out, the Jumbos had a better sight to look at on the scoreboard.-by Nate Grubman
After an eight game road trip that started back on Jan. 18, the Jumbos are coming back to Cousens gym smiling. After defeating the Bates Bobcats 78-73 at Alumni Gymnasium in Lewiston, Maine, the Jumbos improved their record to 5-3 on the road trip, 13-8 on the season and 6-1 in the conference. The win guarantees the Jumbos a winning regular season record and home court advantage for the first round of the NESCAC Tournament. "We survived [the road trip]," sophomore Dave Shepherd said. "There were a couple of bumps along the way against Connecticut College and Keene State. They played well, but we made it through." The Jumbos overcame a 14-point first half deficit to overcome the Bobcats in both the game and the conference standings. The win broke a three-way tie for second place in the conference between Tufts, Trinity and Bates. The Jumbos now share second with only Trinity. After Tufts erased its large first half deficit to close the gap to four at the half, the second half started with both teams close, as neither team could take a lead greater than six points in the first seven minutes. With 13:16 remaining and the Jumbos trailing by one, Shepherd buried a three that triggered a 16-1 run. The Bobcats were not done, however, closing the lead to three with three minutes remaining. The Jumbos kept the game out of reach though, as the team played stiff defense and freshman Jake Weitzen and senior Andrew Kaklamanos hit key free throws in the closing seconds. "We came in both 5-1 in the conference," senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell said. "Now, we have a clear edge. It's good to beat a good team in its gym." Playing on the road was nothing new for the Jumbos, and the players had little trouble adjusting. "In all honesty, I don't think it affected one guy," Stovell said. "We were so focused on the game. We were not worried about the home court advantage. Sure, it was hot in there and crowded and the fans were getting a little rowdy, but we were focused." Stovell entered the game just 12 points shy of 1,000 for his career. He didn't waste anytime getting there, hitting a layup with 8:06 left in the game to give him the milestone. While Stovell was proud of his achievement, he has a higher goal in sight. "I want to win the NESCAC," Stovell said. "1000 points, that's great and I'm really happy for myself, but right now, we have a team that can go all the way." Stovell finished the game with 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Jumbos. He was aided by freshman Ryan O'Keefe who dropped in 20 points. O'Keefe has averaged 16.8 points per game in five starts in place of an ill sophomore Brian Kumf. But Kumf did return to action on Saturday after missing the four previous games, playing 21 minutes off the bench and contributing five points. The Jumbos have three regular season games left, two of them against the top teams in the NESCAC. But Tufts is not shy about its goal in those three games. "We want to sweep," Shepherd said. "We believe we can get a win on Tuesday against Newbury at home. If we sweep, we host the whole NESCAC Tournament. That's what we've been talking about in the locker room recently, but now, that's our goal." Two tough teams stand in Tufts' way. Next weekend, they will play Trinity and Amherst, who are Nos. 25 and 4 in the nation respectively. "In order for us to sweep, it's going to take a lot of heart and confidence," Stovell said. "Trinity and Amherst are nationally ranked teams. They're both tough teams, but I know that we can beat them. In order to do that, we have to continue to focus." Coming off the victory over the Bobcats, the Jumbos will head into Tuesday's game with some momentum. After losing two in a row to Connecticut College and Keene State, the Jumbos righted themselves by beating UMass Dartmouth on Thursday by a score of 78-66. Shepherd handed out 10 assists and O'Keefe dropped in 23 points as the Jumbos claimed a big first half lead. A second half three pointer by Kaklamanos, one of his three, gave the Jumbos a 55-31 lead at one point. UMass Dartmouth responded with 14 unanswered to make it a game. "UMass Dartmouth was very physical," Shepherd said. "In the second half, we spread the lead out, but they crawled back into it." UMass would get no closer than seven, however, as the Jumbos coasted to victory. The win gave Tufts the steam it needed heading into the Bates showdown. "It was huge," Shepherd said. "The coaches didn't think we could win at Bates coming off of a loss and I agreed. Bates is one of the toughest places to play in the conference."
When the final buzzer sounds and the gym empties, the W or L is all that gets entered into the record book. But there are times when the final score doesn't do justice to the on-court reality of a matchup. The intricacies and subtleties of the sport are generally overlooked on the statistics sheet, and the give-and-take of the game overshadowed by the outcome. The women's basketball team had two of those games this weekend, and the split in the record book is equally as stark as the differences in the level of basketball that the Jumbos brought to the court. On Saturday, the Jumbos overcame huge first-half deficits to take nationally ranked Bates to a close finish in a key NESCAC game. Despite eventually falling 76-66, Tufts' second-half challenge was enough to keep the Bobcats nervous down the stretch and showcase the disciplined, competitive basketball of which Tufts is capable. That level of play was decidedly absent on Friday night, when the team rattled off a 69-47 victory over non-conference MIT. The Jumbos succumbed to MIT's undisciplined and scattered level of playing, allowing the Engineers to make a second-half bid and relying on huge first-half margins to cruise to the buzzer. In Saturday's matchup, Bates played every bit as well as its No. 4 ranking right from the whistle, jumping out to early leads of 7-0, 17-1, and 22-5 before the Jumbos could regain their balance. The Bobcats held the Jumbos scoreless from the floor until nearly six minutes into the game, forcing Tufts into a one-dimensional outside shooting game by removing open looks to post players. The Jumbos were thrown by the Bates defense, missing their first eight shots and turning the ball over three times in the first five minutes. On the other end of the floor, the Bobcats essentially scored at will during the opening minutes. "We definitely didn't come out with the intensity that we had in the second half and that ended up hurting us," sophomore guard Taryn Miller-Stevens said. "If we had played the full 40 minutes the way we did [in the second half], I think we would have given them a really good game." After falling behind by 17 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the first half, the Jumbos managed to find an offensive rhythm, closing the gap to six on a three-pointer from junior Julia Verplank. Verplank put up a dozen points, five assists, and seven rebounds for the Jumbos in only her second game back from a knee injury that kept her on the bench for most of January. But the Bobcats finished the half strong and the margin stood at 13 at the intermission. A 10-2 Bates run to open the second half was met with an 18-3 spurt from Tufts, capped by a steal from sophomore Katherine Miller and a jumper from classmate Valerie Krah, whose 14 points and three steals were second-best for the Jumbos. But a three-point play from Bates senior Betsy Hochadel deflated the Jumbos' momentum, and Tufts would never get any closer. Bobcat senior Olivia Zurek, a two-time NESCAC Player of the Week, scored the last seven points of the game for Bates, en route to a double-double. While the Jumbos were finally able to run their offense effectively, they were unable to find a defensive pattern to stop high-scoring Bates, which averages 80.4 points per game and seemed to have an answer for every one of Tufts coach Carla Berube's changes. The Bobcats drove the lane on the Jumbos' man-to-man defense and passed around the 2-3 zone with precision and speed. "Bates has some phenomenal athletes," Berube said. "They're definitely a well-oiled machine and you can tell that they've been playing together for years." At times, it seemed the Jumbos were looking at a maroon-and-white version of themselves, but a little bit better. The strengths that contributed to Bates' seamless play - offensive rebounding and second-chance points, running the break, and pressure defense - have all been integral components of Berube's game plan for Tufts this season. But the Jumbos found themselves on the shorter end of the category statistics as they ended their three-game win streak. "The tone was really set in the first five minutes with our defensive effort," Bates coach Jim Murphy said. "I give [Tufts] a lot of credit for battling back from that and we definitely got lucky a few times during their run." Murphy, who racked up his 200th win on Tuesday with the Bobcat's defeat of top-ranked Bowdoin, also highlighted the competitiveness and toss-up nature of NESCAC matchups. "No question, this is the best Div. III league athletically," he said. "It's pure competition, healthy competition, and that's very refreshing. Any team can give any other team a really good game." While the Jumbos added another tally to their win column with their win against MIT, the team failed to showcase its strengths. With only two players in double-digit scoring, the Jumbos were actually outscored in the second half 32-27 by a team that never should have been close, and coasted to victory on their massive 42-15 halftime lead. Tufts, despite a considerable height advantage, was out-rebounded by the Engineers. At the weekend's close, the Jumbos moved to 11-9 overall, and 1-6 in league play, uncomfortable territory as the NESCAC tournament approaches. The team is home again on Tuesday against non-conference Salve Regina for their last home game.
After suffering a seven-game losing streak that considerably deflated the sails of the women's basketball team, Tufts is back on track with two consecutive wins. Battling out a nail-biter against non-conference Keene State on Tuesday to pick up their second straight victory, 59-57, the Jumbos moved to 10-8 and seem to have regained their direction. The Jumbos entered the game fired up from their recent victory over Connecticut College and eager to make it two in a row. "We knew going into [the Keene State game] that we had to get a win," sophomore Taryn Miller-Stevens said. "We were coming off of the Conn. College win and were pumped to keep our momentum going." Tufts maintained a small lead for most of the first half, but never by more than six, and at halftime the margin stood at only two. Keene State stole the lead midway through the second half on the strength of an 8-2 run and with the Owls holding a 44-37 advantage, the Jumbos seemed to be on the verge of imploding. This time, however, Tufts responded, fighting back and regaining a 57-54 lead with 47 seconds to play on a basket by sophomore Valerie Krah. The Owls challenged once again when they cut the lead to one with a three pointer, but a free throw by Miller-Stevens sealed the two-point victory for the Jumbos. Tufts, playing without starting point guard junior Julia Verplank for the ninth straight game, protected the ball well in its top ball-handler's absence, committing only seven turnovers in the second half, even as the Owls turned up the defensive heat. "[Keene State] pressed us quite a bit," coach Carla Berube said. "They played some run and jump, and then they went to some zone in the second half. We didn't turn the ball over as much; we did a better job taking care of it in the second half." Berube was happy with the team's performance in the close game. The two-point margin of victory constituted their smallest of the season, and only their third in single digits as the Jumbos rolled over teams by impressive margins in the first half of the season. "The last couple of weeks we had some close games that didn't go our way, so this feels good," Berube said. "We made some big shots down the stretch and had some big offensive rebounds." The Jumbos dominated the boards the entire game, finishing with 17 offensive rebounds. "At halftime we talked about how we could crash the boards on them," Berube said. "They weren't doing a great job boxing us out. [Sophomore] Laura Jasinski did a really good job. She got a huge rebound near the end of the game." Tufts displayed good balance offensively, with three players scoring in double figures. Miller-Stevens led the team all across the board with 13 points, five rebounds, and four assists. The sophomore guard, who began the season as a valuable bench player for the Jumbos, has stepped up into the starting spot and point guard position in Verplank's absence. "[The Keene St.] game was a team effort," Miller-Stevens said. "Overall we were very balanced, we worked well as a team, and we need to see more of that in the future." The Jumbos would certainly like to see more of it tonight, when they host MIT in another non-conference game. "We're lucky that we have good opponents right down the road," Berube said. "It changes it up, and we need to fill up our schedule. We always want to put a non-conference game during the week in between the NESCAC weekends." In MIT, Tufts faces a team that likes to keep the score low. The Engineers defend well, holding opponents to just 40-percent shooting on the season and their offense has been shaky, shooting just 30-percent from the floor. The Jumbos, who, despite a few low-scoring games during their recent losing streak, have generally put up high numbers, breaking the 70-point mark six times this season. "I hope we can turn [the tempo] up," Berube said. "They like to play zone and slow the game down, but we're going to get up and down the court. We want to force turnovers and get easy baskets." The Jumbos would like to keep their recent momentum going as long as possible, as they try to recover from the seven-game slide that has put them near the bottom of the NESCAC rankings as they approach the final push to the postseason.
Despite having the reigning NESCAC player of the week in senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell, and a squad that his risen over perennial powers Williams and Middlebury this season, the men's basketball team was handed its second consecutive loss on Tuesday by non-league Keene State, 90-78. The team's losses yesterday and Saturday against Connecticut College followed a three-game NESCAC winning streak in which the Jumbos defeated Wesleyan, Middlebury, and Williams, and solidified its spot in the conference rankings. While the loss dropped Tufts' overall record to 11-8, the team retained its 5-1 NESCAC record, good enough for a second-place tie with Bates. The problems against Keene St. came in areas in which the Jumbos have had no trouble his season. Despite fielding an imposing post presence and the league's second-leading rebounder in Stovell, Tufts was outscored in the paint 22-8 and out-rebounded 49-39. "The biggest factor contributing to the loss was the fact that they were more athletic than us," coach Bob Sheldon said. "We didn't have Brian Kumf, who is our most athletic player." The sophomore forward, whose 11.6 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game are a major weapon in the Jumbo lineup, is out with strep throat. "We haven't had him for the past three games and we're still adjusting to playing without him," Sheldon added. Unlike in six out of the team's last seven games, Reggie Stovell was not at the top of the scoring list. While he played his way to his tenth double-double of the season, he fell below his season average of 19 ppg with 10 points and 12 rebounds on only 3-14 shooting. "Teams have gotten the word that Reggie is our player to beat and now they're keyed on him," Sheldon said. "It was a 'poor' night for him and he still got a double-double. I'm not too worried." The Owls' focus on Stovell gave senior tri-captain Drew Kaklamanos free reign of the Jumbo offense. He led the team in scoring, hitting 15 of his 17 points on 5-11 from beyond the arc. Freshman Jake Weitzen also contributed 17 points. What did not help the Jumbos was the brilliant play of junior Sean Sullivan of the Owls. The 6'6" forward ripped off a game-high 24 points on 7-12 shooting and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Freshman guard David Sontag controlled the Owls' outside game, adding 21 points, including 4-7 shooting from behind the arc. The Jumbos led only once all night, going ahead 3-2 on a three-pointer from freshman Brian O'Keefe just 13 seconds into the game. Keene State scored the next 12 points to go ahead by 11, which would remain the margin at halftime. The Jumbos cut the lead to two on a free throw by junior Dan Martin with five minutes remaining in the first period, but that was as close as it got. The Owls maintained a double-digit lead for most of the second half as Tufts only briefly crossed the psychologically-crucial 10-point margin with 11:29 to play and could not close the score below nine before the final buzzer. The Jumbos reached down their bench for some additional manpower, as Jake Weitzen came off the bench to tie for the team lead in scoring with 17 points. Bench scoring has been a consistent aspect of Tufts' game plan and Tuesday was no exception, but even the 32-19 margin in Tufts' favor wasn't enough to make the difference for the Jumbos. The win marked Keene St.'s fourth consecutive victory with Tuesday's win, moving them to 11-7 overall, and coach Rob Colbert's reaction to his team's showing reflects Tufts' growing reputation among even non-league programs. "It's definitely a statement win for us," Colbert said. This positive attitude was echoed by scoring leader Sean Sullivan. "We knew it was going to take a while, but things are coming together for us." The Jumbos have a chance on Thursday to regain their momentum heading into the end of the season when they suit up at UMass-Dartmouth. The Corsairs are 9-10, and have lost to Keene State twice already this year. After that the Jumbos move on to Bates, where they will return to conclude an eight-game road trip against the Bobcats, who are also vying for the top slot in the NESCAC with a 5-1 record. Even though the Jumbos are riding a two-game skid, Sheldon remained optimistic. "We don't need to make any major adjustments for UMass-Dartmouth. Brian Kumf should be coming back to practice on Wednesday, so we don't need to account for his sickness anymore." Sheldon also reflected on his team's long road trip. "It's tough to go out and keep playing in other gyms, but we'll be fine once we get home." Tufts will be back on Tuesday in Cousens Gym against Newbury for their first home game since January 15, followed by two more home games next weekend to close out the season. The Jumbos' performance in these next crucial games will determine the team's postseason opportunities in the NESCAC Tournament.
With the Jumbos trailing 83-82 to the Wesleyan Cardinals in the closing seconds of overtime in Friday night's game and the team's perfect conference record in jeopardy, the team needed a hero. Luckily, senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell has been playing that role all year for the Jumbos. With 2.7 seconds left, Stovell took a pass from sophomore Dave Shepherd and knocked down a 12 foot jumper from the corner of the lane. The shot marks the third time this season that Stovell has saved the Jumbos with a game-winner. "Without Reggie, the team doesn't go," sophomore Dave Shepherd said of his teammate. "He's our go-to-guy and everybody feeds off of him." In a season in which the Jumbos have improved to 11-7 and 5-1 in the conference, nobody's improvement has been as dramatic as Stovell's. His statistics are surging as he has boosted his scoring from 11.4 to 19.1 points per game since last year. Stovell has also doubled his rebounding from 5.0 to 9.7 per game and improved his shooting from 40.6 percent to 45.4 percent from the floor. For his efforts, Stovell has been rewarded with two NESCAC Player of the Week awards, the only repeat recipient of the season. According to teammates, Stovell is a legitimate candidate for NESCAC Player of the Year, but he has a different goal in sight. "I don't have any concrete individual goals," Stovell said. "I've been working hard, working my best, to make the team win. My only goal is a team goal and that would be to win the NESCAC Tournament." Stovell's play is a big reason why the Jumbos have a legitimate shot at accomplishing that feat for the first time since 1997. Stovell attributes his success to the hard work he put in during the offseason. Last season was a frustrating one for him as he appeared in only 18 games due to a preseason injury and was disappointed with his play. "Last year, I broke my foot before the season even started and wasn't in shape for the season," Stovell said. "This year, I spent the entire summer playing basketball in D.C. and also in the weight room working on legs and squats. That has really helped me get off the floor for rebounds." Stovell's improvement in rebounding has been important for a Jumbos team that has averaged 10.6 more rebounds a game than its opponents. Stovell has averaged over four offensive rebounds a game, which has given him the opportunity for easy putbacks. "He doesn't take a lot of shots to get the points he does," senior tri-captain Jesse Belodoff said of his longtime teammate. "Most of his points come in the flow of the offense. Numbers don't lie and his numbers have been phenomenal." But while they may not lie, they also don't tell the whole story. Stovell freely admits that his changes in his attitude may be partially responsible for the noticeable jump in his statistics. "I guess a lot of my attitude was kind of anger because we had players who weren't all about basketball," Stovell said. "This year, I don't have to be angry or overaggressive. Last year, I would have to be aggressive to rile the team up. I always consider myself a guy who likes to get everybody excited." According to his coach and teammates, Stovell has been a leader on and off the floor. "[Stovell] has been huge," coach Bob Sheldon said. "He is a senior captain and is leading us in points and rebounds. We go the way he goes. When he works hard, as he always does, he really leads us." According to Belodoff, Stovell's leadership is even more important on a team that has a lot of younger players, as he is able to lead by example. "[His leadership] has been as good or better than anybody could have expected, not just for him, but for anyone," Belodoff said. "He is always working the hardest in practice and is always in the gym. We have a young team with a lot of freshman and sophomores on the floor. To see someone with that work ethic is crucial." Stovell's leadership will be tested down the stretch as the team vies for a NESCAC Tournament title. "We have to beat tough teams," Stovell said. "The next two weeks we face the top three teams in the NESCAC, Amherst, Trinity and Bates. It is important for us to stay focused. It will be tough but it can be done - we have guys who can do it."
The women's basketball team can now breathe a little easier. The Jumbos, who began their season with a record-breaking seven straight wins, finally snapped the program's longest losing streak in five seasons on Saturday night with a much-needed win over Connecticut College.
In back-to-back games, the men's basketball team found itself in do-or-die situations, trailing by one with the ball and the clock ticking down.
The men's basketball team scored a stunning upset on Friday, beating Williams College on its home court - the first time for Tufts in 11 years. The Jumbos, a team who did not win a single road game last year, defeated Williams, the No. 24 team in the country, by a score of 95-78. The win marked the first time since 1995 that Tufts has beaten Williams. A day later on Saturday, while most people were hunkering down in their dorm rooms awed by the onslaught of nature, the squad, oblivious to the blizzard, felled Middlebury in overtime to win its second road game of the weekend 91-82. The two wins put the Jumbos at 4-0 in the NESCAC season. This doubles last year's NESCAC total, and already the Jumbos have two more wins overall than all of last year with a record of 10-6. At Williams, senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell took control of the paint and dominated from the inside. The Jumbos appeared destined for victory from the beginning. They leapt to an 8-0 lead and never looked back. At halftime the score was 51-32. Coach Bob Sheldon was thrilled with the team's performance. "Reggie was simply red hot. He had 19 points and four rebounds," Sheldon said. "And that was only in the first half." In the second half, the Ephs looked as though they might get close as they opened the half with an 18-8 run. A three point play cut the lead to nine with 15 minutes left, but the Jumbos responded with a 13-4 run that put the game away for good. As a team, the Jumbos shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and three players posted more than 17 points: Stovell with 29, sophomore guard David Shepard with 19, and sophomore forward Brian Kumf with 18. "While Reggie was on fire, we spread the ball around. We had four players in double figures," Sheldon continued. "There are so many playmakers on this team that opponents have a tough time covering all of them." Coming off its upset of Williams, Tufts moved on to face Middlebury the next day. This game proved the opposite of the first, however. The Panthers started with a nine point lead, but the Jumbos fought back to claim a halftime lead of 39-38. During one stretch in the second half, Tufts outscored Middlebury 24-8 and led by nine. Yet Middlebury kept coming back. The Panthers went on an 8-0 run with 3:06 left and took a two point lead with 1:49 left in the game. Twelve seconds later, freshman Jake Weitzen found Shepherd for a three-pointer to give the Jumbos the one point lead. When the Panthers responded with a free throw to tie the game, the stage was set for a dramatic finish. Freshman guard Ryan O'Keefe had a chance to win with a last second three pointer, but missed and the game headed to overtime. In overtime the Jumbos outscored Middlebury 15-6. The Tufts' bench scored seven points to Middlebury's zero, which proved to be the crucial difference. For only the second time this year, Weitzen led the team in scoring with 23. The Jumbos scored 36 overall points off the bench. "Reggie wasn't as on tonight, so our bench players stepped it up and helped out the team," Sheldon said. "Our team concept is so crucial to our success. The bench players aren't in there just to give the starters rest, they're in there to make plays. And Jake Weitzman was definitely important." Weitzman shot eight of 13 from the field and ended the game with 23 points. Stovell, Kumf, and Shepherd all also managed to tally at least 15. Sheldon was optimistic about the team's continued success. "We're in the middle of an eight game road trip, and it's going well. The reason is that we approach every game in any gym the same way. It doesn't matter where it is," he said. "By the eighth road game, even I'll admit that it could become too much." Sheldon is not dwelling on the success. Instead, as always, he is looking to the future. The Jumbos will continue their road trip this weekend with games at Wesleyan and Connecticut College. Wesleyan is ranked fifth in NESCAC, with a 2-2 league record. Conn. College is last with no league wins. "We've got a big NESCAC weekend coming up and we've got momentum," Sheldon said.
Since beating Fitchburg State on Jan. 8 to move to 8-1 on the season, the women's basketball team has lost six straight games. The team's last win was also the same day that junior point guard Julia Verplank went down with a knee injury on a first-half play. Verplank, who has led the offense from the point since coming to Tufts, was the team leader in rebounds (5.2 per game) and assists (3.0 per game) and also averged 9.4 points per night. Even more important to the Jumbos, however, was her ball-handling and court presence. "It has taken a while to click," coach Carla Berube said. "When you lose your point guard, your floor general, it's tough." In Verplank's absence, sophomore Taryn Miller-Stevens has started at point guard, and the team's other guards, senior co-captain Erin Connolly, junior Jessica Powers, and sophomore Valerie Krah, have had stepped into the backcourt to help with ball-handling duties. "Everyone's role changed after she got hurt," Powers said. "It's a lot of pressure on everybody because point guard is such an important position." "[Verplank] is a great competitor and a great defender," Berube said. "We've done a good job stepping up without her. Everybody knows they have to do a little more with her not playing." While both coach Berube and Powers seemed confident that the team can bounce back from Verplank's injury, they said that it has had a psychological impact on the team. "We've talked about it," Berube said. "Everybody understands that we're going to have to play without her. Good teams bounce back from injuries, and we know that, but underneath it probably has affected us. She meant so much to our team." Powers, Verplank's backcourt mate for the past three years, took the injury especially hard, but remained optimistic about the rest of the season. "Julia's one of my best friends, so I was pretty upset by it," Powers said. "And obviously it's hard for her to watch and not be able to play. But the team's still just as close; we just have to make some adjustments. We still have the confidence that we can be a good team." This mental hit to team chemistry has played out on the court as the Jumbos have lost six straight of its last eight games. The team has struggled to score as the average offensive output has dropped from 71.3 points per game to 54.3 in Verplank's absence. Losing its leading ball-handler has taken its toll on the Jumbos' passing game as the team has averaged nearly four more turnovers per game. Powers also cited the increased responsibility that falls on her own shoulders without her backcourt partner. "Playing at the one and the two [positions] for the last three years, we shared that role," Powers said. "And Julia can still be a leader from the bench, but I know that I have to step up even more." Sitting at 0-4 in the conference, the Jumbos desperately need to right the ship. With Miller-Stevens filling in and Powers stepping up, Tufts has the backcourt depth to overcome the loss of their point guard, even one as good as Verplank. But a turnaround will require the rest of the team to find their roles quickly in order to break out of the current losing streak.
While most Tufts students spent their winter break relaxing and visiting friends and family, the men's basketball team was busy winning three out of five games, getting off to a perfect start and equaling their win total from all of last year. The Jumbos, who have now won nine of their last 12 games to boost their record to 10-6, opened their NESCAC schedule well, defeating Colby and Bowdoin at Cousens Gymnasium. "We played really well [over break]," senior tri-captain Jesse Belodoff said. "We're pretty young so there will be bumps and steps forward and backward all season, but overall, we're moving in the right direction." Hosting Bowdoin on Jan. 15, the Jumbos jumped on the Polar Bears from the very opening whistle and never trailed, winning 82-65. Senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell scored on a layup just five seconds into the game, triggering a 7-0 run that would set the tone. Bowdoin failed to find any rhythm as they shot just 22 percent from the floor in the first half. While they would turn it around in the second half, shooting 42.5 percent, the Polar Bears could not get closer than 13 points as the Jumbos put the game away with a 16-0 run triggered by two Stovell free throws with 11:19 left. Stovell, who finished with 19 points against Bowdoin, played phenomenally all break, averaging 19.4 points and 9.6 rebounds over the course of the five-game stretch. "He is our most valuable player," Belodoff said. "He should be NESCAC Player of the Year at this point. He is everything to us. He makes us go." In the Jumbos' previous conference game against Colby, Stovell dropped in 17 points and added 13 rebounds in the Jumbos' 76-69 victory. The Tufts offense, whose 83.1 points per game make the Jumbos the top scoring team in the NESCAC, did not have an easy time against Colby's No. 1 ranked defense. While the Jumbos led 41-39 at the half, the Mules tightened the defensive screws in the second half, holding Tufts to only seven points in the first 6:40 and claiming a 59-48 lead. With the Jumbos trailing 65-57 with 7:18 left in the ballgame, Stovell completed a three-point play, hitting a free throw after getting fouled on a layup. When Colby responded with a layup, Stovell hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four. A three-pointer by freshman Ryan O'Keefe was followed by another Stovell basket to give the Jumbos a lead that they would not relinquish. Suddenly, it was the Jumbos playing the tough defense, as the squad held Colby to eight points in the final 13:20. "Defense [was the key to the run]," Belodoff said. "We're going to score points. We're an explosive team. It's always a question of whether we play defense. They missed some shots and we played really hard on defense." After going on to win their two conference games after break, the Jumbos now hold a 4-0 conference record which puts them tied atop the NESCAC standings with Bates, with Amherst trailing a half-game behind with a 3-0 mark. The Jumbos are excited about their start in conference. "The rest of the season we kind of consider the preseason to the NESCAC," sophomore David Shepherd said. "We look at those nine NESCAC games as the real season. Everything else is just a test to make us better for the conference games." The Jumbos could not follow up their conference success with a win on the road on Jan. 18 against red-hot Wheaton, winners of their last 10. Scoring half their points off 13 Tufts turnovers, the Lyons jumped out to a 44-31 first half lead. The Jumbos did not quit, however, chipping away at the lead and cutting it to four with 15:25 left on a three-pointer by freshman Jake Weitzen. They could get no closer, however, as the Lyons shot 50 percent in the second half and won the game 91-79. The loss was the second in a row for the Jumbos on the road. While the 2003-2004 squad failed to win a single away game, this years' Jumbos compiled a 5-1 record away from Cousens Gym in their first six road games. That streak was snapped, however, when the Jumbos lost to Brandeis 87-72 on Jan. 12. The Jumbos were bombarded all game long by the Judges' three freshman starters who combined to score 61 points. Brandeis had a hot shooting night, going 58.6 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and 92.9 from the line. Although Tufts fell short, junior Dan Martin had a big game for the Jumbos, scoring 13 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for the double-double. Over the five-game winter break stretch, Martin has averaged 11.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. "He's come up huge," Shepherd said. "He's rebounding really well. Right now, he's coming into his own and really finding his place on the court." The Jumbos started the break with a 116-97 triumph over UMass Boston. The scoring explosion was the Jumbos' greatest output since 1991. "A lot of guys, especially the older ones, thought that was the most fun game," Shepherd said. "We fought and crawled our way to get above .500 before break and we didn't want to give that up."
After dropping a heartbreaking 98-97 overtime loss to Plymouth State on Tuesday evening at Cousens Gym, the men's basketball team bounced back and ended the fall semester on a positive note by defeating the Suffolk Rams on the road on Wednesday evening 88-70. The two game split put the team at 5-4 on the season, after winning three straight road games last week.
The Jumbos finally had a close game, but in the end the result was the same as it has been all season. Despite trailing by three points at halftime, the women's basketball team rallied in the second half to come away with a 67-60 victory at Wheaton on Monday. It was the sixth straight win for Tufts (6-0), marking the best start for the Jumbos since a 7-0 run to open the 1991-92 season. "It was surprising," coach Carla Berube said of the game's close score. "It was not our best game; it was probably one of the worst first halves we've played in awhile." The game was close throughout the first half, and with five and a half minutes to go the score was knotted at 21. From there Wheaton took advantage of sloppy ball handling by the Jumbos to take the lead at the half. A runner in the lane by Kim McCormack secured the 30-27 advantage for the Lyons. "We weren't playing our brand of basketball," Berube said. "We weren't playing with the kind of intensity that we need to, and that we expect." Tufts trailed at the half despite out-shooting Wheaton 55 percent to 39 percent. The Jumbos were hurt by 17 first half turnovers, which allowed Wheaton to take 11 more shots. "Wheaton played very hard," Berube said. "They were getting to the loose balls and getting in the passing lanes, and we just weren't taking care of [the ball]." Like they have been doing all season, the Jumbos responded with a huge second half run, outscoring Wheaton 27-6 over the first ten minutes and change of the half. That spurt pushed the Tufts lead well into double digits, but the Lyons responded with an 11-2 run of their own to trim the lead to nine. Berube commented on the team's streakiness after the game. "We've been playing that way," she said. "We need to do a better job of stopping our opponents' runs. Whether we're really streaky, or just get into a little bit of a lull, that needs to change." Tufts scored enough down the stretch to keep Wheaton out of striking distance and come away with the seven point win. The Jumbos turned the ball over just five times in the second half, while holding Wheaton to just 31 percent shooting. Junior Jessica Powers led the Jumbos with a game-high 25 points on eight of 14 shooting and three of four from three point range. Sophomore Valerie Krah continued her strong play off the bench, contributing 18 points and three steals, and shooting a perfect three of three on three pointers. Krah has shot better than 52 percent from three point range in Tufts' season-opening six-game winning streak. McCormack and Kate Williams led Wheaton with 12 points each. The Jumbos look to remain perfect in their non-conference schedule Thursday night, when they travel to Boston to take on Suffolk University. The game will be Tufts' last of the first semester. "There are things we need to improve," Berube said. "We need to get better in a lot of areas, but I'm happy with a 6-0 record. I'll be even happier if we're 7-0. But we're going to work hard during the semester break and be ready to start the NESCAC season."
The women's basketball team isn't wasting any time warming up this season.
With six seconds left and the Jumbos trailing by one against Clark, in danger of snapping a two game winning streak, senior tri-captain Reggie Stovell tipped in a missed shot to give the Jumbos a 64-63 victory.
All night, the men's basketball team couldn't buy a basket. But after trailing at MIT the entire game and being down by as many as eight points in the second half, Tufts got two big buckets when it needed them and came away from Rockwell Cage with a 54-51 victory on Tuesday. Senior forward Reggie Stovell scored off of an offensive rebound with 38 seconds remaining to put the Jumbos up for good 52-51, and junior Dan Martin, with a rebound and putback off of a missed free throw by sophomore guard David Sheperd, put the Jumbos up by three with twenty seconds left. The Engineers attempted a tying three pointer at the buzzer, but it was short and the Jumbos held off for the victory. The game, and the paint, belonged to Stovell. On a night where no other Jumbo scored more than six points, the tri-captain went 5 of 10 from the field and scored a total of twenty points. He also led the team with 16 rebounds, giving him a double-double. "Reggie was definitely important to our win," coach Bob Sheldon said. "He did a great job." The team as a whole shot 16 of 57 from the field, only a 28 percent success rate. Was this a cause for concern? "We took a lot of shots, and some went in and some didn't. I think it was a good showing that we only shot 28 percent and [still] managed to score 54 points," Sheldon continued. "Our defense really helped to win the game. We held them to 51 points, which was good." MIT's paltry 51 is the lowest point total that the Jumbos have held their opponents to yet this year. Not only that, but MIT only attempted eight free throws for the entire game while Stovell alone converted nine freebies for Tufts. The Jumbos had a good defensive showing, yet remained disciplined. They only committed 15 personal fouls, while MIT had 25. This season the Jumbos have consistently committed more fouls than their opponents, but on Tuesday they reversed the trend, shooting 18 of 31 from the charity stripe, while MIT made good on only three of its eight attempts. Junior guard Mike D'Auria led the Engineers with 19 points and was seven of 13 from the field. Adam Gibbons, a senior guard for the Engineers, chipped in with 14. He was only two of eight from beyond the three-point arc, and another guard, MIT freshman Will Mroz, was only two of ten from three point range. MIT didn't possess the size inside that Tufts did, so it was forced to remain in the backcourt and shoot long balls with its three guards. The Engineers went six of 25 shooting three pointers. Tufts also took its share of threes (four of 15) but relied more on Stovell and Martin dominating the paint. Martin, the 6'9" junior center, contributed 10 boards and four points to the effort. His height was an important factor in securing the win, grabbing two important rebounds in the final minute. The Jumbos outscored the Engineers 22-16 in the paint and out-rebounded them by a margin of 48-40. On the offensive boards, the margin was 23-14, giving the Jumbos far more second-chance points, which contributed to the advantage in paint points. This helped since the shots were not dropping consistently for Tufts on Tuesday night. Senior tri-captain Drew Kaklamanos, scored four points on 1-11 shooting from the field.Sophomore forward Brian Kumf scored six points, as did freshman Jake Weitzen. A total of nine Jumbos contributed to the scoring, while only six did for MIT. But what the Jumbos really had going for them was the emotion factor. "At halftime, we were down eight," Sheldon said. "And we got emotions involved. This was the most important factor in the team's success." Yet, even after its first victory in ten days, Sheldon is under no illusion that the team is at its best: "We need to make our shots," the coach said. "While we were able to overcome that, it's something we need to do better against Babson." The Jumbos travel to Babson tonight hoping to improve on their 2-3 record.
Coming off a 2003-04 season in which the Jumbos notched seven of their eight wins at home, Tufts has not found Cousens Gym so friendly this year.