In a thrilling upset on Saturday, the now No. 21 Tufts men’s basketball team defeated No. 9 Colby 80–67 at Cousens Gym. The win propelled the Jumbos into first place in the NESCAC with a 6–0 conference record, and gave them a 16–4 overall record on the season.
Tufts started off strong with a 6–0 run, but minutes later, a three from Colby first-year guard Will King began to even the score at 7–5. The back and forth play continued until a three by Colby senior guard Ty Williams gave the Mules a 14–12 lead with 11:47 remaining in the first half. The Jumbos responded aggressively, stretching their lead to 33–25 going into halftime.
Despite a strong start to the second half by Tufts, Colby cut the lead to 42–40 following a King layup with 15:31 left to play. The nail-biter game remained close for more than four minutes until the Mules took a 52–47 lead off of a three from sophomore guard Noah Tyson. With 10:32 left in regulation, the Jumbos re-gained the advantage with a three from junior guard Justin Kouyoumdjian. Subsequent baskets by junior guard and co-captain Will Brady and senior guard and co-captain Eric Savage pushed the Jumbos even further along.
After a Mules technical foul with just under 90 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Tyler Aronson scored two freebies on the line for the Jumbos. The Jumbos went on to score an additional seven points in the game and receive the 80–67 victory.
Head coach Bob Sheldon commented on the team-wide contributions in the game.
“It was a big team win,” Sheldon said. “Everyone contributed. We had three or four guys in double figures. We only had nine or 10 turnovers. We played against a really good team and we played really well. This win raises our calling and gives us confidence going forward.”
Additionally, the game against Colby was senior night for guard Eric Savage, Tufts’ lone senior. Savage has been key for the Jumbos this season, averaging 16.1 points per game.
“Tufts has welcomed me since day one, and I have been fortunate enough to contribute to the program,” Savage said. “I have learned a lot and grown a lot and can only thank the friends I’ve made, the coaches, the teammates, the fans and my family who have been very involved in this four-year process. But there is still a lot left to do and that is the most exciting part.”
On Friday night, Tufts also defeated Bowdoin 85–73 at Cousens Gym, bringing Bowdoin’s record to 6–12 overall.
The game was tight for most of the first half until a three by Aronson with 6:15 left in the first half gave the Jumbos an eight-point lead. But the Polar Bears responded and cut the Jumbos lead to 37–36 by halftime.
The Polar Bears came out strong in the second half, taking a 48–43 lead with 13:55 remaining on a three-pointer from first-year guard Manav Randhawa. Tufts responded with a 13-point unanswered run — including three consecutive three-pointers from Savage. The Polar Bears narrowed the lead to three points with just over four minutes left in the game but were never able to regain the lead.
“We didn’t panic,” Sheldon said about the game. “With all the tough teams in the schedule, we are ready for big games. When they made their run we didn’t panic. We just wanted to do what we always do. And then [Savage] took over.”
Savage led the game with a career-high 35 points, while also contributing nine rebounds in the win. His performance in both the Bowdoin and Colby games earned him NESCAC Player of the Week.
“[Savage] is starting to realize he is a second semester senior and he is giving us everything he’s got,” Sheldon said. “He always gave us everything, but I think with the end coming, clearly he is digging a little deeper and that showed this weekend. He got the NESCAC player of the week this week as the first player we have had this year. He knows to go all out, all the time.”
Looking ahead, the Jumbos will play on the road the next two weekends, with four games left on the regular-season schedule. On Friday, Tufts will travel to Trinity at 7 p.m., before taking on Connecticut College at 3 p.m. on Feb. 8.
“We have two huge weekends ahead,” Savage said. “We are in a good place right now. We need to tighten up on little things like defensive rotations, taking care of the basketball, and just keep playing tough.”