Tufts (8–0) continued its unbeaten start to the season, defeating Bridgewater State (2–6) at home on Tuesday and the University of New England (4–6) away on Saturday. Neither were close affairs.
On Saturday, Tufts’ strong start to the season stretched to eight straight wins after besting the University of New England on the road , 85–59. The win was characteristic of Tufts’ high-powered offense; the team has put up more than 80 points for the sixth time this season. First-year guard Molly Ryan got things going with Tufts’ first possession, and the visitors never looked back. Tufts emerged with a 23–14 lead in the first quarter.
The Jumbos were even more efficient in the second quarter; they reduced their turnovers from five to two and entered the break with an 18-point lead. Junior guard/forward and co-captain Erica DeCandido explained the role her fellow co-captain, senior guard Jac Knapp, played in the improved play during the second quarter.
“[The University of New England was a] fast team, pushing it so it was kind of a frenetic game, we were getting back on defense and had to be quick, but Jac Knapp played incredible,” DeCandido said. “She was driving it to the lane, making foul shots, she was running up the court for easy passes and easy layups and I think her energy just really took over and sparked us, as we weren’t really winning a lot in the first quarter.”
The start of the third quarter provided a potential turning point in the game, when Ryan picked up her third and fourth personal fouls within two minutes. Despite giving up 14 free throws in the third quarter, the Jumbos held on to their advantage through good ball movement. The team’s ability to move the ball with speed set up players in good positions to further the Jumbos’ lead. Knapp was instrumental in the Jumbos’ success with her 3-point shooting and driving ability, tallying a career-high 26 points. The Jumbos shot 3-of-6 from downtown in the quarter. Tufts continued its offensive pressure in the second half and ran away with the contest by the game’s end.
“Just getting into the lane kind of opens up shots for the people on the outside when the defense has to crash,” DeCandido said. “So when we have shooters like Jac and Molly who can knock down threes from the outside, it kind of is a hard offense to guard, when people like me and Briggs are driving, and when they try to double we just usually dish it out.”
On Tuesday, Tufts hosted its penultimate game at home before winter break, blowing out visiting Bridgewater State University 80–42. Both offenses took a while to get going, but DeCandido finally got the first basket of the game after more than two minutes had been played. DeCandido’s opening bucket set the tone in the first half as the Jumbos scored 24 points off of the Bears’ 18 turnovers in the whole game.
The floodgates opened as Tufts once again demonstrated its ability to start games quickly; DeCandido put up 10 points in the first quarter alone, while Knapp followed with eight of her own. None of the Bears’ starters scored any points in the first quarter, helping the Jumbos emerge with a 28–10 lead at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was much closer on the scoreboard (16–13), but the Jumbos maintained their lead through attacking the paint and dominating the backboard. By the half, Tufts had out-rebounded the visitors 23–10. While the Jumbos were 0-of-4 from downtown, they shot 20-of-35 from the field in the first half, compared to the Bears’ 8-of-26.
Tufts went on an 8–1 run to start the second half, consolidating its advantage as the team continued to display its ability to drive inside. With the Bridgewater State offense struggling to find any rhythm, the visitors called for a timeout with 3:16 to play in the third quarter. The Bears then went on an 8–0 run themselves, but the Jumbos ended the barrage with their first made 3-point shot in the game from junior guard Lilly Paro with 1:25 to play in the third.
Coach Carla Berube eventually emptied her bench with 4:26 to play in the fourth quarter. DeCandido finished the game with a game high of 21 points. Tufts dominated with 51 rebounds compared to the Bears’ 18, with Ryan leading in this category with a game-high of 11 rebounds. The Jumbos recycled their offense efficiently too, finishing off 20 second-chance points.
Tufts’ final game before winter break is at home against Emerson on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Looking forward, first-year guard Sofia Rosa said the team needs to improve defensively.
“Coach has been really big on defense so that’s what we pride ourselves on, so we got to work on communication, working with each other to figure out how to best defend as a team,” Rosa said. “We heard that Emerson’s post [senior forward/center Charlie Boyle] had a big night the other day [against Smith with 36 points] so we got to work at that and make sure we’re boxing out and going for fifty-fifty balls.”
Knapp also said the team needed to ensure it remained mentally focused heading into the Emerson game.
“I think it’s making sure everybody is 100 percent focused on the game,” Knapp said. “It’s finals week, everyone has a ton of homework and assignments due, plus everybody is getting ready to start studying for their finals. So kind of chunking off those two hours for the game, not anything else, [and] just focusing on Emerson [is] what we have to do to be successful.”