The No. 9 women’s basketball team remained perfect this weekend, improving to 4-0 with a 67-43 victory over Brandeis on Saturday.
For the second straight season, the Jumbos have won their first four contests, outscoring their opponents by an average of 18 points per game. And while this year’s squad is a long way from reaching the 22-game win streak that opened last season, the aspirations remain high, and thus far all signs suggest such a feat might be within reach.
“We’re playing well but obviously it’s early in the season,” senior tri-captain forward Ali Rocchi said. “Hopefully we’re not even close to where we can be.”
The Jumbos got off to a slow start Saturday. In front of their home crowd, the Judges jumped out to an early 9-2 lead thanks to five quick points from senior guard Kasey Dean and four points from senior forward Nicolina Vitale. But Tufts would stall the home team’s early momentum and rip off a 13-0 run to take the lead for good.
“As long as I’ve been here, Brandeis has been a tough place to play,” junior forward Hayley Kanner said. “In our history, those games have been pretty ugly. My freshman year we barely came out with a win, and this time around we started off really slow. It was great this year to turn it around come out with a double-digit win.”
Sparked by strong play from Kanner, senior guard Liz Moynihan and junior guard Hannah Foley, Tufts held a 35-20 lead at the break. The Jumbos would effectively put the game away in the first six minutes of the second half, using a 15-5 spurt to bring their lead to 25 with 13:15 remaining.
The Judges managed to cut the lead to 20 but got no closer, and the final ten minutes saw both teams empty their benches, trading buckets before an eventual 24-point win for Tufts.
“Brandeis is a very good team,” Rocchi said. “We pretty much consider them one of our bigger rivals so it’s always big to go there and come away with the win.”
Kanner dominated every facet of the game, scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and seven blocked shots. Foley chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds, and freshman forward Michela North continued her stellar rookie campaign, coming off the bench to score nine points and grab a team-high 13 boards.
“What’s nice about our offense this year is that we’ve been getting contributions from everyone,” Kanner said. “In the past, we would rely on [current assistant coach] Kate Barnosky, [who played as a graduate student last year], to carry us for whole stretches of games. But this year we’re getting help from our young players off the bench, and our old veterans continue to play strong.”
The Jumbos will not face a NESCAC opponent until January, so it is critical that they use the first two months of the season to get into top form. And, as usual, it is on the defensive end that coach Carla Berube sees the most room for improvement.
“We’re always working on our defense,” Rocchi said. “Coach calls it our bread and butter. It’s something we can always lean on and count on in tough games.”
“The number one thing Coach has always stressed since I’ve been here has been defense,” Kanner added. “That hasn’t changed. It’s nice to see our offense coming together, and the offensive execution has been very good so far this year. But Coach doesn’t care how many points we score if we’re slipping up on the defensive end.”
The Jumbos will have a week off to enjoy the holiday break before returning to action next Sunday to take on Clark College.