The 6–0 women’s basketball team has lived up to its high expectations as it kept its unbeaten streak alive, picking up two wins on the road against Williams (3–3) Saturday and New England College (3–5) Friday, at the Williams Tournament hosted in Williamstown, Mass.
Coach Carla Berube, in her 17th year coaching at Tufts, spoke about the excitement her players had going into the Williams game.
“I think the team was excited to play against a formidable opponent in Williams — a NESCAC foe,” Berube said. “They’ve had a couple of good wins, and so we were excited to take them on in their gym. Even though it wasn’t a NESCAC season game, it still felt like a big NESCAC game to us. We were looking forward to playing such a tough team.”
Over the course of the two days, Tufts went on to dominate the tournament, emerging victorious with a 90–34 win over New England College and a 67–41 victory over hosts Williams.
Less than 24 hours after comfortably defeating the New England College Pilgrims, the Jumbos faced off against the hosts of the Williams Tournament and NESCAC rivals the Williams Ephs. Williams came into the game with energy following an 81–40 blowout win over Alfred University (2–4). In the end, Tufts’ 26-point margin of victory over Williams illustrated the non-contest.
Junior guard/forward and co-captain Erica DeCandido spoke about the challenges Williams posed during the game.
“Williams, [like] all NESCAC schools, is a whole different ball game,” she said. “There’s a lot more defense involved, and there’s a lot more of just competitive spirit. No matter how much you’re up by or down by, it always feels like a close game. Like our coach always says, NESCAC is mostly defense, and that’s what the NESCAC is known for and what [Williams is] good at. Definitely, their defense was physical at first and they had a couple of good offensive weapons, but nothing that really blew us out of the water.”
Indeed, during the first quarter, the Ephs’ defense presented themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Initially, the Jumbos took a 5–0 lead following a layup by senior guard and co-captain Jac Knapp and a layup and free throw by sophomore guard/forward Emily Briggs. But the Ephs’ defense managed to keep the game close. At two instances during the first quarter, Williams even led Tufts with a score of 7–6 and 9–8 on two layups from junior forward Katie Brule. But those would be the last times the Ephs held the lead over the Jumbos throughout the game. By the end of the first quarter, the Ephs managed to hold the Jumbos to within four points with a score of 17–13 that favored the away side.
Berube spoke about the defensive challenges that Tufts faced against Williams.
“They’re always a really stingy defense,” Berube said. “They do a good job on the perimeter, even inside, and they don’t allow a lot of second-chance opportunities. They started with four guards, so it was going to take some great perimeter defense and some great help on the defensive side. We knew going into the weekend that we wanted to take some steps forward in the game defensively, and I thought we did that in the Williams game.”
Despite a well-played defensive first quarter by Williams, Tufts regained its footing in the second and third quarters of the game, moving on to take a significant lead. In the second quarter, Tufts outscored Williams 15–7. This was immediately followed by a third quarter where the Jumbos outscored the Ephs 21–9, allowing Tufts to eventually coast home to victory.
In the end, the driving force behind solidifying the Jumbo victory was the impeccable performance by Knapp, who leads the team in total career games played (101). She led the Jumbos in a number of categories in the Williams game: three-point shots made (2-for-3), free throws made (6-for-9) and total points (18). Under the 5-foot-6 guard’s leadership, Tufts went on to beat Williams by a comfortable margin.
Meanwhile, Friday night’s blowout victory over the New England College Pilgrims was yet another high-scoring game for the Jumbos this season. While the game against the Pilgrims did not match the school record for most points scored in a single game (110–63 over Brandeis on Nov. 25), it nevertheless tied for the second-highest scoring game of the season alongside a 90–30 victory against Lasell on Nov. 17.
The highest scorer on the Pilgrims was junior forward Daleia Boutwell, who scored two out of her six attempted field goals and three out of four attempted free throws for seven points off the bench. However, the Jumbos were able to convert more of their shots, shooting 53 percent from the field (35-of-66) compared to the Pilgrims’ 23.1 percent (12-of-52).
Briggs led the Jumbos with 16 points and three steals, with DeCandido not far behind, scoring 14 points and recording three steals. Briggs and DeCandido, who both stand at 5-foot-11, gathered five rebounds each throughout the course of the game. They finished just behind first-year guard Molly Ryan, who recorded six rebounds on the night, and also led the team with six assists. The Westfield, N.J. native also gathered a total of five rebounds against Williams and was one of many newer players on the Jumbo roster to leave an impact on the court.
Other newer players who left their mark included first-year guard Janette Wadolowski, who was recently named as one of Tufts’ athletes of the week. Wadolowski has already scored 61 points in her six-game career at Tufts, and has completed all eight of her free throws in her debut season.
DeCandido spoke about the impact that newer players have had on the team as a whole.
“The [first-years] have not skipped a beat coming into the season, and their attitude and their intensity is just awesome,” DeCandido said. “[You can see it] even with people that come off the bench right away — there are sparks. It’s really been good to see, and it’s honestly really reassuring moving forward.”
Berube also admired the level of work the first-years have put into the season, giving credit to their talents and the guidance of returning players.
“All three [first-years] are very talented and have had a really smooth transition into college basketball, and more importantly to our team,” Berube said. “I think our returners and our leaders have done a good job of showing them the way of how we need to play. I think they’ve done a really really good job, and they’ve been important pieces to our team so far this season.”
The Jumbos will return home Tuesday at 7 p.m. to face the Bridgewater State Bears (1–5) in Cousens Gymnasium.