The Jumbos achieved an impressive 76-40 win over the Bridgewater State Bears on Tuesday, coming back from a tough loss against the Bowdoin Polar Bears on Saturday. Through five games, Tufts is continuing to adjust.
After Tufts’ defeat against Bowdoin — its first loss against a NESCAC opponent in two years — the team utilized its strong work ethic to get back on track in preparation for Tuesday’s game.
“Bowdoin is a tough team,” coach Carla Berube said. “We knew that was going to be a tough contest, and we didn’t show up the way we should have. Saturday was a good wake-up call.”
Walking onto the court on Tuesday night, the team was energized to play again after its defeat. Their strong performance resulted in domination during both the first and second halves.
“Tonight was a step in the right direction for the rest of the season,” Berube said. “We came and were ready to go. It definitely wasn’t perfect, and we still have a lot to work on. It’s just good to see us competing hard no matter who is on the other side of the court.”
Junior center Michela North had a standout performance, scoring 17 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter.
“[North] was pulling layouts left and right, doing a good job finishing [and] she was working on getting back on defense, too,” senior tri-captain guard Emma Roberson said.
After the first half, Berube called on the team to keep the pressure on Bridgewater.
“We were up 15 at halftime, and coach told us to come out strong in the second half to extend our lead and not let the other team make it a close game,” Roberson said.
Roberson came through. The defensive standout showed off her improved offensive game, finishing with 12 points and hitting two of her three 3-point attempts.
Last year, Tufts’ defense was one of the best in the country; the team is still trying to make up for the loss of some key players from last year’s team. Since All-American Haley Kanner (LA ’15), graduated, Berube has played both sophomore forward Melissa Baptista and junior forward Katy Hicks in the starting lineup. While both are well-rounded players on both ends, they lack the type of two-headed rim protection that made the Kanner-North pairing so potent last year. The return of senior forward Maura Folliard and her consistency on the defensive end could help both Baptista and Hicks adapt to their new expanded roles.
“We really need to emphasize defense and communication,” Roberson said. “Tonight was better but the points we did give up were essentially lapses in defense. Our next two opponents — Wheaton and Connecticut College — both average a lot of points. We need to get back on defense, even if our shots aren’t going in as much as we would like on offensive.”
Berube, however, praised the team’s defensive performance during the match-up against Bridgewater as well as the effort of other players. Roberson also emphasized the cohesiveness of the team, even this early in the season.
“The whole team has really come together at the start of this season,” Roberson said. “The new freshmen both played really well against Bridgewater. Due to injuries, freshman have been really involved in our drills during practice and have therefore gotten a lot of time. Watching them play, you wouldn’t know they are freshmen. They play super confidently and aren’t afraid to ask questions. If they are unsure of a play or a drill, they ask because they don’t want to make the same mistakes.”
The team’s new players are a welcome addition. They, too, have been proving their skill on the court.
“Jacqueline Knapp and Katie Martinson both played really well on Tuesday,” North said. “They both have been scoring when they are in and taking advantages of opportunities. They are also really bringing energy into practice.”
Tufts’ next game is against Wheaton today at 7 p.m.
“Right now, we are looking ahead one game at a time,” Berube said. “The goal ahead of us is to win, and then after that we will look to the next game against Connecticut College on Saturday. With the end of the first semester, we will figure out what we need to work on and possibly revisit some goals.”