Midway through a stretch of five consecutive away games, the women's basketball team soared to a 63-42 win over Rhode Island College on Tuesday evening. The win pushes Tufts to 19-0 while Rhode Island falls to 14-6 on the season.
Gut-check time came for the Tufts men's basketball team on Saturday with less than six minutes remaining against Bates at Cousens Gym. In desperate need of a win after dropping their first three NESCAC games, the Jumbos led the Bobcats by as many as 16 points with 13 minutes remaining. But that lead dwindled over a seven-minute span.
The No. 4 Tufts women's basketball continued their undefeated season over the weekend, beating strong opponents Amherst and Trinity. In doing so, the Jumbos are the only NESCAC team with a perfect winning streak.
After winning five of its first six games in November, the Tufts men's basketball team has now dropped seven of its last nine contests and is tied for last place in the NESCAC. After dropping their first conference game at Middlebury, the Jumbos lost matchups at home against Amherst and Trinity on Friday and Saturday.
The Thanksgiving turkey tasted a little bit sweeter for the men's basketball team this year, as the Jumbos went into the break with a 77-61 win over the MIT Engineers last Tuesday, its first victory over the non-conference rivals since 2007.
For the first time in the NESCAC playoff era, which began in 2000, the men's basketball team is 3-0. So far, it's looked easy. The Jumbos have won their first three games by an average margin of 23 points, and they cruised past the Regis Pride, 88-69, on Tuesday night in their home opener at Cousens Gym.
Tufts enters this weekend two wins away from the program's first-ever trip to the Final Four. But the team's focus is squarely on their game tonight, a rivalry matchup with Amherst whose importance transcends the NCAA Tournament. A victory would not only put the Jumbos in position to contest for a National Championship, but would also turn six years of heartbreak and disappointment at the hands of the Lord Jeffs on its head.
The women's basketball team will this weekend host first-and-second round games in the NCAA tournament for its second straight season. On Friday, the No. 11 Jumbos will face off against St. Lawrence at Cousens Gymnasium, with No. 17 Babson College taking on New Paltz State immediately after. The winners of the two games will play on Saturday night for a place in the Sweet 16.
Because the Jumbos have clinched the fourth seed and home?court advantage in the first round of the NESCAC tournament, the men's basketball team's game on Sunday against Hamilton is meaningless on paper. Its importance, however, goes far beyond the win?loss column.
With the fourth seed in the NESCAC tournament and a home quarterfinal game already locked up, the Tufts men's basketball team faced off against non-conference rival Clark University on Monday night, a team that has beaten the Jumbos in each of the past three seasons. In a game that featured seven ties and 13 lead changes, the Jumbos were victorious against the Cougars in their first overtime contest of the season, improving their overall record to 15-8. While much of the game was a back-and-forth affair, Clark took a 3-point advantage with 1:23 left in the second half following consecutive baskets by graduate students Brian Vayda and D.J. Bailey. On the next possession, junior co-captain guard KwameFirempong, recently inserted back into the starting lineup, knocked down the game tying 3-pointer, his only made field goal of the game, as the shot clock expired to send it into overtime. In the extra five minutes, Tufts knew its defense would be vital in securing a victory. "We really focused on defense [heading into overtime,]" said senior co-captain forward Scott Anderson, who followed up his career-high 35-point game on Saturday afternoon with 15 points and four rebounds against Clark. "We knew Vayda was going to get the ball in the last few minutes so we helped on him and locked the other guys down. We also focused on getting defensive rebounds that we were not getting towards the end of regulation." Following a 3-pointer by Vayda on the first possession of the extra period, a layup by freshman center Tom Palleschi and a triple from sophomore guard Ben Ferris gave the Jumbos a 65-63 lead with just three minutes remaining. The Cougars would have one more opportunity to win on the game's final play, but junior Nicholas DaPrato's final shot rimmed out. "It's huge for us to win games like these," Anderson said. "In years past, these games have slipped so many times, it's nice to finally pull them out, although winning by double digits is more convenient." Junior guard Oliver Cohen, who contributed eight points, three rebounds and three assist in 35 minutes agreed. "We've had a handful of close wins like that throughout the season and it just helps to build your confidence going forward when you're in tight games later on in the season," he said. "To know that we can pull games like that out and win in a variety of ways is a great thing to draw upon later on when faced with similar situations." Ferris continued his stellar sophomore campaign with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three steals, while Palleschi tallied 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in the victory. Coach Bob Sheldon's squad has the rest of the week off before its regular season finale at Cousens Gymnasium against the Hamilton Centennials, a game that is meaningless for the Jumbos in terms of the NESCAC standings. The game is crucial for the Centennials, however, as they are still in position to clinch the fifth seed and set up a first-round match-up against Tufts. While it may not have an effect on their tournament outlook, it will still serve as Senior Night for Anderson and graduating classmates Matt Lanchantin and Alex Goldfarb, and it could provide a final dose of confidence headed into the most important weeks of the year. "The focus from now until the tournament is to first focus on beating Hamilton on Friday night," freshman swingman Stephen Haladyna said. "Then we can go into the NESCAC tournament with a lot of confidence and knowing that we can beat any team in the league if we come out with energy."
Tonight, for the first time ever, March Madness will hit Medford.
Junior tri-captain forward Scott Anderson was named to the All-NESCAC second team and freshman guard Ben Ferris earned NESCAC Rookie of the Year for the men's basketball team, which finished the season at 16-9 overall following a conference quarterfinals loss to Bates.
Following in the Tufts tradition, senior guard Tiffany Kornegay was named the 2011-2012 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, the fifth straight season a Tufts women's basketball player has been given the honor. Kornegay and senior co-captain forward Kate Barnosky also made the All-NESCAC second team, and coach Carla Berube was named NESCAC Coach of the Year.
Before the start of the season, the women's basketball focused on a word: stifling.
This weekend, for the first time ever, there will be NCAA tournament basketball played at Tufts. The women's team received an at−large bid yesterday, marking the program's fourth NCAA berth in the past five years. The Jumbos have already had a sparkling season, reaching the NESCAC tournament finals and compiling a record of 21−6 overall and 8−2 in the conference.