Jumbos win but need to focus on three-point shooting and execution

Senior Michela North runs with the ball during the game against Trinity on Feb 3. (Sitong Zhang / The Tufts Daily)

Second-seeded Tufts defeated seventh-seeded Williams 58-40 in the NESCAC quarterfinals over the weekend in a game in which both teams struggled offensively.

The Jumbos shot 34.3 percent from the field (23-for-67) while the Ephs went 15-for-45 on field goals (33.3 percent). The Jumbos led from the opening minutes, jumping ahead 17-12 after the first quarter. Sophomore guard Jacqueline Knapp scored nine of her 11 points in the first half, while also posting a team-high three steals and going 5-for-9 from the field on the day.

“I definitely think that the game this weekend had ups and downs. There’s a lot of good things that came out of it, but there’s also a lot of things we need to work on just to make sure we keep getting better,” Knapp said. “Whenever it’s the playoffs, everyone steps up their playing style. It’s different from the regular season because everyone’s a brand-new team. You can’t take anyone lighter or look back to an earlier game because everyone’s really fired up and has a whole new energy. It’s just something we have to make sure we match.”

Williams opened up the scoring off a lay-up by junior Kristin Fechtelkotte, which would be one of the few times Williams led the whole game. Tufts led by as many as 22 points in the game, placing three different players in double digits.

“There were definitely some parts of the game where our energy dipped, and looking back there are definitely a lot of things we can learn both offensively and defensively,” senior tri-captain forward/center Michela North said. “Even knowing that Williams was going to come strong, they still kind of shocked us with the way they came out.”

North recorded game highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds, and junior forward Melissa Baptista added another 11 points for her team, despite shooting just 5-of-15 from the field and 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

“Three-point shooting wasn’t great for us. I think we were 4-for-25, which isn’t great, especially when the other team is packing the paint and closing off some of our options inside, so when they’re giving us the open threes we really have to hit the shot,” North said. “We don’t want to live and die by the three, but also when the [other] team gives us the opportunity, we just have to take them.”

The Jumbos defended well from beyond the arc, holding their opponents to just 1-for-16 from outside (6.3 percent), but they shot just 16 percent from downtown (4-for-25).

“In practice when there’s 12, 14 girls on a court, it’s hard for everyone to work on their shooting, so just taking the time outside of practice to work on our shot is important,” Baptista said. “I know that for me, [my shooting] is about confidence, so if I’ve been shooting well before games, I’ll be more confident in games.”

Tufts last played Williams on Feb. 10, holding them to just 27 points in 40 minutes of play and six or less points in three of the four quarters.

“I think we executed better in the first game [against Williams],” Knapp said. “A lot of times, our transition defense is getting the steals on defense, just being really energized [and] making it hard for the team to score. I think this weekend we didn’t do as good a job [doing that], and I think Williams, with their end of their season on the line, came out with a whole different mentality.”

Tufts will take on third-seeded Bowdoin (21-3, 8-2 in NESCAC) in the NESCAC semifinals on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Amherst. The Jumbos defeated the Polar Bears by a three-point margin, 46-43, on Jan. 6.

“We’re really excited to play Bowdoin again [because] we didn’t have a great showing against them the last time,” North said. “We’re just being grateful for the opportunity to keep playing. I think realizing that some teams have ended their season without making it to the quarterfinals of their conference, we’re grateful that we have the opportunity to keep playing.”

If Tufts wins against Bowdoin, it will have the opportunity to face up against Amherst, which needs to get past fifth-seeded Colby to make it to the NESCAC Championship. The Jumbos lost to Amherst on Feb. 4, their only loss of the season.

“I think we’re just trying to channel any anger that we felt about that loss to Amherst.That cost us two home games in the NESCACs, [and] now we have two away games,” Baptista said. “We’re just trying to turn that anger into positive energy for the opportunity to play them again.”


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