The Jumbos (2-0) prevailed in both of their games at the John K. Adams Tip-Off Classic at The Golden Dome in Newark, N.J. en route to winning their first tournament of the regular season. Senior co-captain guard Tarik Smith led the way for Tufts and received the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award after averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists across the two games.
Despite the relatively comfortable margins — Tufts won both match-ups by double digits — neither contest was a blow-out.
“I think we have a ways to go,” junior guard KJ Garrett said. “The NESCAC starts two weeks later than all the other conferences, so I think we’re — I’m not saying rusty, but we just haven’t clicked fluidly yet. But … we have a lot of potential … [I’m] pretty optimistic for this season.”
Sophomore guard Ethan Feldman offered a similarly diagnosis.
“I think overall we shot the ball really well,” he said. “Our offense was good. We moved well without the ball. I guess the only [thing] that didn’t go so well was the third and fourth rotations weren’t always there defensively.”
Tufts defeated the Southern Virginia Knights (1-2) 80-69 in the championship game, with three Tufts starters scoring in the double digits. Senior co-captain Tom Palleschi filled out the scoresheet with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Meanwhile, Smith shot six of eight, making all three of his three-point attempts for a team-high 15 points and dishing five assists.
Against Tufts, Southern Virginia’s bench outperformed its starters. Two first-year guards, Rashay Douglas and Chris Richardson, scored more points together (29) than all five starters combined (25). The only Southern Virginia starter to reach double digits was junior center Cale Thornton, who put up 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Despite the efforts of Douglas, Richardson and Thornton, the Knights failed to challenge the Jumbos for most of the contest. The Jumbos led by seven at halftime and only extended their lead in the second half. A late attempt at a comeback stalled out at 70-67 when Tufts went on a 10-2 run in the last few minutes of the game.
In the high-scoring game against FDU-Florham devils (1-2) on Friday, two Tufts guards — Feldman and first-year Eric Savage — scored a combined 36 points. Of Feldman’s 18 points, all but two came either via his seven free throws or set of three pointers, demonstrating an efficient shot selection. Savage, coming off the bench, made the most of his 27 minutes in the game, as he shot 66.7 percent from the floor against the Devils, adding five rebounds and an assist. Junior guard Everett Dayton contributed 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a well-rounded performance.
Despite senior captain forward Donte Ali’s 17 points and 14 rebounds, FDU-Florham never led after the first three minutes of the game. The Jumbos led by as many as 15 at multiple points in the first half, but a late run helped the Devils enter halftime down just six points at 43-37.
The Devils were not easily dispatched in the second half. Early in the period Tufts led again by double digits, 62-51, as Feldman hit a three-point shot and added four free throws within the span of two minutes. With 6:14 remaining in the game, Ali sank a free throw to make the score 72-69, bringing the Devils within striking range of the Jumbos. Tufts did not allow FDU-Florham to get any closer, though, and finished with a 91-81 victory.
Feldman noted that the team needs to improve in keeping its lead over its opponents.
“We always need to show respect to every team, but I think we did a poor job of kicking them while they were down,” Feldman said. “We had both of them by double digits at different points throughout the game, and we allowed them to stay in it … We definitely need to do better in that regard.”
One potential area of concern moving forward is the Jumbos’ propensity for wasted possessions. In two games, Tufts turned the ball over 32 times while only forcing 26 giveaways despite leading for the vast majority of the two contests. Garrett explained that the team also needs to decrease the number of turnovers — especially those resulting from mistakes on fast breaks and loose balls.
“Turnovers happen,” he said. “That’s going to stop. It’s going [to] slowly go away — it’ll go away and erode.”
In its next game, Tufts travels to take on MIT (1-1) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Tufts returns home to host Emerson at 2 p.m. on Saturday.