Tufts cruises to home victory over UMass Dartmouth

Sophomore guard Miles Bowser puts up a contested lay-up in a loss to Bates on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. (Eddie Samuels / The Tufts Daily)

The Tufts men’s basketball team took full advantage of its break in conference play on Tuesday night with a 111–76 win over UMass Dartmouth. In a prolific display of scoring, the Jumbos shot over 55 percent from the field and passed the century mark in points for the first time this season.

Tufts quickly jumped out to a 17–4 lead only five minutes into the first half, as the team recorded assists on each of its first six baskets — three of which came from senior guard and co-captain Thomas Lapham. Lapham’s night started with a layup, an and-1 layup and a three-pointer. The hot start led to a dynamic game from the Manhattan Beach, Calif. native, as Lapham recorded his most efficient offensive game of the season, finishing with 16 points and eight assists, while conducting the Jumbos’ offensive juggernaut.

“I just started the game with a lot of easy points,” Lapham said. “It gives me a lot of confidence when I see the ball go through the hoop like that.”

Lapham was notably efficient on Tuesday night in Cousens Gym, but the whole roster from top to bottom was clicking on the offensive end. Tufts’ balanced attack had six scorers in double figures, yet none above 20 points. Sophomore guard Eric Savage paced the offensive effort with 18 points, and first-year guard Brennan Morris put up 11 points in just 12 minutes of play.

“This week in practice was all about ball and player movement,” senior guard and co-captain Everett Dayton said. “Our offense has been looking better but in the end, it’s all about getting and making open shots. Our shots were falling today, so we were really tough to guard. Being in our own gym obviously helps, but if we are clicking, then we are capable of doing this every game.”

After senior guard KJ Garrett’s layup with over 13 minutes left in the first half made the score 21–10 lead, Tufts never led by less than 10. The hosts’ advantage increased steadily after that, and the game was all but finished from the moment Lapham and Dayton hit consecutive three-pointers with seven minutes left in the half.

The victory was expected for the Jumbos, though the blowout was a good opportunity to execute things from practice and give extended minutes to their reserves.

“We never overlook any opponent — actually we lost to these guys last year — but especially coming off a loss this weekend. We were looking at this game to kick start us for the final stretch of the year and perfect some things we have been working on,” Dayton said.

The Jumbos’ lead was cut to 14 at halftime due to a small run by the Corsairs, who were led by 22 points from junior forward Arinze Obiora and 19 from first-year guard Jake Ashworth. Tufts quickly settled into a 20-point advantage early in the second frame, attacking quickly with an 11–0 run and forcing an early timeout from UMass Dartmouth. The Jumbos’ dominant start to the half was highlighted by three-pointers from Dayton, Savage and Lapham, as the latter still had not missed a shot to that point.

“Everyone gives a lot of attention to [senior guard and co-captain] Vinny [Pace], Eric [Savage] and Everett [Dayton],” Lapham said. “So when we can get contributions from our bench, or when I can be an efficient fourth scorer, we become almost impossible to guard.”

Tufts continued to execute throughout the second half, and Garrett’s two consecutive dunks stretched the lead to 28 with over 12 minutes remaining. At that point, the team’s reserves were able to enter the game and earn valuable minutes.

Another highlight for Tufts was senior guard and co-captain Ben Engvall’s scoring his first points of the year after he sat out all but six minutes of the previous 20 games while rehabbing an ACL tear. In just nine minutes of play, Engvall posted nine points on 3-of-4 shooting and fouled out.

“It was good to be out there with the guys for some extended time. There is a lot I can do better, but seeing my shot fall again is a great feeling,” Engvall said.

This was Tufts’ last game against a non-conference opponent in the regular season. The Jumbos (15–6, 4–3 NESCAC) close their schedule with three NESCAC games, as they look to improve their record before February’s conference tournament.

“We have three games that we need to win if we want a good seed in the NESCAC tournament or want to qualify for the national tournament,” Lapham said. “If our offense is clicking like the way it was tonight, then we are really tough to guard, and we can win all these games. We just need to keep executing.”