Tufts keeps winning streak rolling

Then-senior guard Michelle Wu leaps over a Thomas More defender to score a three-pointer in the NCAA Div. III women's basketball championship on April 4, 2016. (Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily)

The 2016-17 team’s attempt to match the 2013-14 season record of winning 21 games in a row has to wait a little longer since the team’s match on Tuesday against Rhode Island College was postponed due to inclement weather.

Tufts, however, extended its winning streak to 20 with a 73-44 win against Bates on Saturday, as the team returned to Cousens Gym after a seven-game road trip in January. This extends the Jumbos’ unbeaten streak against NESCAC opponents to 38.

Tufts started a little slowly in the first quarter, trailing 7-3 after 2:40, but senior forward/center Michela North got the team going with a layup off an assist from sophomore guard Jacqueline Knapp to spark a 19-0 run. The Jumbos eventually ended the quarter up 24-10, shaking off the rust that plagued them early in their previous game against Emmanuel Mass.

“At Emmanuel, we’ve always struggled to play there for whatever reason … and I think we just didn’t have the energy in the first quarter of that game,” North said. “Going into every game, we know we’re not going to win the game in the first quarter or anything, so we just have to have the mentality that it takes all 40 minutes to win the game and not let up at any point.”

The Jumbos dominated the rest of the game. They went on another similar run with about 4:30 to play in the first half, going on a 12-2 run that was started by North’s free throw and ended with her layup to take a commanding 45-22 lead into the half.

The free throw made North the all-time leading scorer in the program’s history, surpassing Colleen Hart’s (E ’11) 1422 career points. North eventually finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, picking up her second NESCAC Player of the Week.

Offensively, the Jumbos were sharp, shooting 29 for 63 of the field goals. They also managed to turn the ball over just nine times. Defensively, Tufts was also able to capitalize on 18 turnovers to score 25 points.

Junior forward Melissa Baptista led the team with 22 points. The Jumbos’ bench added 22 more, compared to six bench points from the Bobcats.

Even with the big margin of victory, coach Carla Berube believes the team still has plenty to work on. For instance, the Jumbos only put up five points in the fourth quarter, their worst scoring quarter yet this season.

“We had some good scoring opportunities when some of the bench players came in, and just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” Berube said. “We were rushing things a little bit, forcing a few things, and other times just missing shots. I want us to keep putting the pedal to the metal no matter who’s in the game, so that’s something we’re still working on. We want a full 40 minutes of Jumbo basketball.”

With four regular-season games left, Tufts faces three conference opponents, hosting Trinity on Friday before a big match against Amherst on Saturday. Both Amherst and Tufts currently stand at 20-0 in overall play. The match-up will likely decide which team takes the No. 1 seed going into the NESCAC Championship.

“[Amherst has] to go up to Bates on Friday night, so that’s no easy task there,” Berube said. “We’re just preparing as well as we can for both games, and they’re both as meaningful as the other. We’ll be focused on Trinity come Friday. That’s the game on the plate. After that, we’ll look to Amherst.”

Berube is also looking forward to seeing a lively crowd at Cousens Gyms on the weekend, as the program welcomes back its alumni and celebrates the graduating seniors on the team this year.

“We’re excited that we’re home – it’s gonna be a great weekend,” Berube said. “It’s our alumni weekend, we’re going to have a lot of former student athletes here and it’s going to be senior day, so it’s going to be an exciting time.”