MEDFORD, MA – This was a matchup between two of the top teams in the NESCAC who came in having won a combined 11 games in a row between them. The game played out at the high level you’d expect from two such teams.
In a game that featured non-stop action from the start, Amherst College defeated Tufts University on Saturday, 74-65. With the win, the Lord Jeffs improved to 8-0 in the conference, (20-2 overall) and clinched a home quarterfinal game in the upcoming NESCAC championship. The Jumbos fell to 6-3, (16-6 overall.)
The first half was back-and-forth the entire way, with neither team being able to open up much of a lead. The action was fast and furious. There were eight ties and eight lead changes in the first 20 minutes alone.
The Jumbos shot 51% from the field, compared to 45% for the Lord Jeffs. The home team led by one at the intermission.
“I thought the great thing was that we were only one down at halftime,” said Amherst head coach David Hixon. “I said ‘guys, we did this, this and this…and we’re only down one. Let’s go.’”
After the break, Amherst went on an 8-2 run to open up a small lead, and then turned up the defensive intensity, as Tufts was unable to retake the lead the rest of the way.
Each team had four players in double-figures, and leading the way for the Lord Jeffs was Aaron Toomey, (18 points), while David Waller added 15. The pair combined to go 5-12 from behind the arc, while Willy Workman and Allen Williamson scored 10 apiece.
“We like to set (Toomey) free and move the ball around himself,” said Hixon. “Offensively, we started to sort-of let this kid loose a little bit, and let him start to do some things and make everybody better when he couldn’t get something himself.”
The Jumbos, playing before a full house at Cousens Gymnasium, were led by Ben Ferris’ 16 points. C.J. Moss had 12, and Alex Orchowski and Scott Anderson added 11 and 10, respectively.
The Jumbos were hoping for another big win, one night after beating Trinity at the buzzer.
“We missed some shots, and they were a little bit more poised than we were,” said Tufts head coach Bob Sheldon, who said his team was ready for the big matchup after Friday night’s dramatics. “To be honest, they were a little tougher than us.”
On defeating Williams College: “It was a big win for us. I felt that with our team, we’ve been up and down, and we needed to know how good we were as a team. I think myself and the staff felt we were good, but they needed to know. We needed a signature win, and I felt that when we went in there, the whole team was focused, the energy was there, it was the first [NESCAC conference] game, it was a nice crowd for them, and to go in there and play them, and beat them there is something that I don’t know how far it’s going to pay forward. It’s just indescribable, [and my team] was confident going into their next [game], and even though it wasn’t our best shot against Middlebury, [but] we were down six with four minutes left, [but], I think it’s going to take us a long way.”
On playing non-conference opponents: “We’ll play anybody. Our belief as a staff is that if you deserve to get a bid at the end and have a good record, you need to play the best teams. So, we play anybody that’ll play us, and once we get into our league, it’s Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and it’s tough. There are no nights off, and so we want to play MIT and Babson, [as well as] Salem and Brandies and those teams that are good, so that we’re ready when we get to the league because if we win the league, it’s an automatic bid, but if you win those games, it gets you ready to win the league to get the automatic bid. And we’re very disappointed in those two losses, [against MIT and Plymouth State], but part of that is that we’re pretty young. We play C.J. Moss, a freshman a lot; we play Ben Ferrisa freshman a lot. Both our point guards are sophomores, and we were missing our starting point guard from last year, [but Oliver Cohen] is back now. But, those games are disappointing because we know we can win them, but part of it was we’re young, and we got into those situations and we really weren’t ready mentally. [When] we go to Williams and play a game like that or even the Babson game or [Plymouth] was a close game right down the end, and so was Salem State, so those games are just helping us, and just like I said, we needed that one big win to kind of let them know how good they are, and maybe get a little bit of a swagger going, and now we’re going to test that this weekend.”
On earning an eventual home victory: “We need to get a win at home, and that’s been the main focus after Middlebury. If we can [get a win on] Friday, and use that to feed off on Saturday, and then go into Tuesday, I think we’ll be alright, but Friday night has been our focus, and we really are focused on beating Bowdoin College.”
On the 11-game winning streak: “I think a lot has to do with just developing some good chemistry on the court. The first two games were two tough opponents to start off, and we have some young players that are getting some time, so I think it’s just taken a little while to sort of find the groove on the floor, and finding the balance of our returners, our experienced players with those freshmen. [Also], I think just playing fundamentally sound basketball, and when you do that you’re in every game, and we’ve been lucky enough to [succeed quite well over the past few weeks].”
On defeating Williams College: “I think we just played very good half-court defense. I think we did a good job of contesting all of their shots, and also doing a good job on the defensive boards. I think shooting percentage goes up when you’re taking two foot shots rather than contested shots from the outside, so we did a good job of keeping them off the boards, and contesting their shots. Williams missed some easy looks, too, so all those three things together I think led to that percentage, but for the most part, I think we were there on every shot, making it hard for them.”
On gaining momentum from beating Williams: “I hope so. I think we have a bit of a chip on our shoulder, and I think we went into that game with that mentality and we have the mentality that we’re to do everything possible to outwork our opponent, so I think that helps us to see what we’re capable of doing, night in and night out, but it’s only going to happen if you bring that same intensity, that same aggressiveness, that same chip that we had, so I hope that it gives us some confidence, but also we recognize how it happened, and why it happened.”
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Here are a few scores from four different Division III college basketball games in Massachusetts.
Tufts 80, Williams 71: The Jumbos entered halftime with a one point lead, and then outscored the Ephs 48-40 in the second half to earn their seventh victory of the season. Scott Anderson led Tufts with 19 points, and 10 rebounds, while Ben Ferris added 23 points off the bench. Michael Mayer finished the game for Williams with a team high 20 points. Williams has now lost two games at home this season, and is 0-1 in conference play, while Tufts is 1-0.
Amherst 66, Wesleyan 64: Despite outscoring the Lord Jeffs in the second half, 46-38, the Cardinals earned their third loss of the season. Aaron Toomey and Willy Workman combined for 33 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists for Amherst, while Jason Mendell ended the game with 18 points for Wesleyan.
Tufts University 60, Williams 43: The Ephs women’s basketball team had their 10-game winning streak snapped, as the Jumbos handed Williams their first home loss of the season. Tiffany Kornegay and Caitlin McClure combined for 27 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and four steals, while Liz Moynihan contributed 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists off the bench. Claire Baecher recorded a team high 11 points for Williams, who finished the game 12 of 57 from the field.
Amherst 76, Wesleyan 39: The Amherst women’s basketball team collected their 11th consecutive win of the season, as they steamrolled past the Cardinals to pick up their first conference victory, too. Caroline Stedman and Shannon Finucane led the team with 14 points apiece, while Megan Robertson tallied a team high 11 rebounds, (five offense, six defense). Amber Wessells led Wesleyan with seven points.