On the night senior captain guard Vincent Pace scored his 1000th career point, the sixth-ranked Tufts Jumbos fell to the MIT Engineers, dropping their second straight game of the early season and bringing them to a modest 1-2 record.
After giving up 98 points in a losing effort to Washington University, the injury-riddled Jumbos struggled defensively again in the 93-83 loss on Tuesday night.
Tufts jumped out to an early lead, using a 7–0 run midway through the first half, highlighted by a three-pointer from Pace, to increase their advantage to 23–12. This was when the miscues began to add up for the Jumbos and their defense softened. A series of turnovers aided the Engineers’ big first-half run. In just three minutes, the Engineers completed their comeback with a 16–4 run, giving them their first lead of the game at 28–27.
“We just started playing sloppy,” senior quad-captain guard Everett Dayton said. “We weren’t having any trouble scoring and then we started turning the ball over and giving up open threes.”
Dayton came off the bench in that contest due to a sprained ankle.
For MIT, junior co-captain guard Cameron Korb and sophomore forward Aidan Einloth both came off the bench and scored 13 and 15 points respectively. Korb had 10 points at the half and finished the game shooting 4-of-7 from three.
The Tufts offense was stunted and MIT kept rolling through the final five minutes of the first half as the Engineers took a 43–33 lead into the locker room.
The second half was a game of runs, with the Jumbos consistently cutting into the Engineers’ lead just to see it shoot back up because of defensive miscommunications and missed assignments. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, sophomore center Patrick Racy, one of three sophomores featured in the starting lineup on Tuesday night, hit a layup to cut the lead to one, at 63–62. The Engineers quickly responded and continued grow their lead.
Down double digits again with just over four minutes to play, Tufts staged another comeback attempt. A three pointer from first-year guard Will Brady, one of his two threes on the evening, helped to propel a Jumbos run that brought them within two points in the late stages of the game. However, MIT responded once again with four quick points, bringing the game to 87–81, a deficit the Jumbos could not surmount.
The bench presence of Korb and Einloth complimented the star performances of junior guard Bradley Jomard and junior co-captain guard AJ Jurko on MIT’s way to victory. Jomard and Jurko were incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 10–16 and 7–10 respectively. The two combined for 42 points and led the MIT offense, which finished the game shooting 53.2 percent from the field.
“We just have to do a better job of digging in on defense and communicating,” Pace said. “We have been focused on that in practice but we have to do it in the games.”
Sophomore guard Miles Bowser, who was in the starting lineup with fellow sophomores Racy and guard Eric Savage commented on the Jumbos’ defense as well.
“We can’t make any excuses,” Bowser said. “Our defense has to get better, but we have dropped games to two good teams and we are missing some of our key players. We are banged up and it is some of our best defenders and more experienced guys. Getting healthy is a priority for us right now.”
Bowser was citing the injuries to senior quad-captain guard Ben Engvall and senior guard KJ Garrett, whose absences have been felt on the defensive side of the floor. Those injuries, along with sprained ankles for both Dayton and Pace, have set the team back early in the season.
As a result, some first-year players have had to step in and play more minutes than first-years are often trusted with.
“We are missing some older guys, so the five freshman have really been thrown into the fire,” Dayton said. “We don’t have a single junior, so we have to rely on them right now. They obviously have a lot to learn and pressure situations are hard, but they are getting valuable minutes and it is going to give our team a lot more depth later in the year when we know we can trust them.”
Bowser has been put into a larger role after rarely seeing time last year. He praised the team’s first-years as well.
“The transition is tough but they have really handled it well,” Bowser said. “Our injuries [are] a reality that we have to do deal with and they are really stepping up.”
Though fans left Cousens Gymnasium Tuesday night with a loss, they were given something to cheer for with Pace’s 1000th point. Pace became just the 31st player in school history to reach the milestone when he hit a free throw midway through the second half.
“It was definitely cool,” Pace said. “I was really happy my parents were there to see it.”
According to Pace, he quickly moved on from the historic moment.
“I still have to do my job on the defensive end and communicate better on that side of the floor,” Pace said. “I just wish we would have been able to pull out a win.”
The Jumbos do not seem discouraged, and are of the mindset that their early mistakes are typical of growing pains at the start of a new season.
“All of our goals are still attainable,” Bowser said. “It is early, we aren’t worried.”
Tufts will travel to WPI and Newbury College for its next two games, which will take place tonight and Thursday respectively.