As temperatures in New England soared above those in Los Angeles, Calif. this week, the Tufts women’s basketball team (21–2) continued to play with fiery passion in their penultimate regular season game. Currently ranked at No. 6 in the nation, the Jumbos have never lost fewer than three games in a single season in program history.
On Wednesday night, the Jumbos channeled this determined energy, traveling to Wellesley, Mass. to battle the Babson College Beavers (18–4). Although the Beavers showed flashes of resistance, the Jumbos stomped all over their lodge with a convincing 80–61 victory.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Jumbos repeatedly demonstrated their ability to score from range. Senior guard and co-captain Jac Knapp, who scored 15 points against Hamilton on Sunday, dominated the Babson game, scoring a team-high 25 points, her second highest-scoring performance of her entire career, preceded only by her 26-point performance on Dec. 8, 2018 against the New England College Pilgrims. Knapp’s incredible display can be attributed to her supreme shooting, where she shot 10-for-14 on field goals, including banking in three of her four attempted 3-pointers.
This pattern of incredible shooting did not just end with Knapp; sophomore guard/forward Emily Briggs went 6-of-8 from the field, amounting to 16 points overall for the Jumbos, while Junior guard Lilly Paro, who dropped a career-high 22 points in Sunday’s game against Hamilton, continued firing on all cylinders from downtown. Paro was 3-for-4 from 3-point range, amounting her to nine points scored overall. As a team, the Jumbos completed 31 out of 67 of their attempts from the field for 46.3 percent shooting, in comparison to the Beavers’ 21 out of 54 attempts for 38.9 percent shooting.
Junior forward/guard and co-captain Erica DeCandido spoke about what she believes helped lead to the team’s success against the Beavers.
“I think that we did an incredible job of shooting. A lot of us were knocking down almost every shot we took, which was awesome to see,” DeCandido said. “Jac Knapp played great, Lilly Paro was knocking down shots, everyone was doing great.”
Needless to say, such dominant offensive performances helped fuel the Jumbos to their ultimate victory over Babson. By halftime, the Jumbos led by a score of 43–29, and by the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Jumbos broke down the Beavers’ dam and were up by almost 30 points. Although the Jumbos held the lead throughout the entire contest, the Beavers remained competitive. Tufts outscored Babson by respective scores of eight, six and 12 points during the first three quarters, but the Beavers showed some promise in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points over the Jumbos’ nine.
Ultimately, however, it was control in the paint, paired with incredible shooting, that led the Jumbos to their last non-conference victory of the regular season. Almost every member of the Jumbos recorded at least one offensive or defensive rebound, with Briggs and junior guard Sadie Otley leading the way with seven total rebounds.
DeCandido gave credit to the impressive performance by the Jumbos on obtaining rebounds off of the basket, praising Babson’s notoriety as a team that knows how to control the basket.
“Their team was a really, really good offensive rebound team, and I think we did a great job of only letting them get [only] around 10 [points] off the rebounds, which was awesome,” DeCandido said “We kind of went off in the fourth quarter, which I think was our only downfall, but other than that I think we played a great game.”
Coach Carla Berube also spoke about Babson’s offensive rebound skills, while also specifically mentioning how the team succeeded in working around them.
“Both their two starting forwards average a lot of offensive boards a game so I thought all the posts that went in did a really good job of that,” Berube said. “I think they ended up with 10 offensive boards, four of which were team boards, which means it goes out of bounds. So [they made] six offensive boards that they kept in play, compared to what they usually average, which is closer to 19 or 18.”
With the victory over the Babson Beavers, the Jumbos will return home on Sunday to host the Trinity College Bantams (18–4) for their final game of the regular season on Sunday, and the stakes are arguably higher than ever. The Jumbos currently hold the third seed in the NESCAC with a conference record of 7–2, but a loss to the Bantams, who are currently 5–3 in the conference, can put that placement in jeopardy especially if the Bantams beat the Bates Bobcats on Friday night. With the NESCAC tournament set to commence in a couple of weeks, wherein factors such as home-team advantage and opponents are determined by ranking in the conference, the Jumbos know that it’s showtime.
“The postseason is obviously win-and-advance, so if you lose you’re done, and every game now matters,” DeCandido said. “Especially on Sunday, because we play Trinity and they’re fighting for the same place we are: third place in the NESCAC. We can’t have any losses. Especially if we want to make it far, we’re going to have to always win leading out from here.”
Berube continued off of DeCandido’s comments, specifying what the Jumbos are doing to prepare for the game against a talented Bantams team.
“Moving forward from last night, [we’re] watching film of our game versus Babson just to figure out where we can get better on both ends of the floor, and then also watching the Bantams play,” Berube said. “They’re very talented, and they’ve had a very successful season. They’re sitting at number four in the conference, so it’s going to be a really big game on Sunday.”
The game tips off on Sunday at 2 p.m.