Women’s basketball remains undefeated, ranked No. 1 nationally

Senior Erica DeCandido drives toward the basket during a game against Trinity College in Cousens Gym on Feb. 7. Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily

The No. 1 women’s basketball team beat Conn. College 78–59 and Trinity 77–61 this past weekend at Cousens Gym. The two NESCAC wins bring the Jumbos’ record to a perfect 22–0 in the overall season and 8–0 in conference play with two games left in the regular season.

In preparation for yet another NESCAC doubleheader weekend, Tufts focused on its own game as well as practicing a zone offense in preparation for what Trinity and Conn. College may bring to Medford.

“Leading up to the weekend, we really focused on ourselves and focused on our defense and help defense because we knew that both the teams could drive very well,” first-year guard/forward Maggie Russell said. “So, we were there on help slides and communicating on defense to help each other out.”

On Saturday, senior guard/forward and co-captain Erica DeCandido and junior guard/forward Emily Briggs combined for 45 of Tufts’ 78 points in the win over Conn. College. This loss brought the Camels’ record to 7–14 on the season and 2–6 in NESCAC play.

“We were moving the ball really well, penetrating the zone really well and getting the ball in and out and finding openings,” Russell said about the game. “Especially [Briggs] and [DeCandido] played really well because they were constantly penetrating the zone and getting open easy looks.”

The Jumbos ended the first half up 42–27. With 2:17 left in the third quarter, junior guard Erin Poindexter McHan rebounded a three-point attempt by sophomore guard Molly Ryan and put it back up to give the Jumbos an 18 point lead. Tufts excelled in rebounds all game, grabbing a total of 50, with 17 off the offensive glass.

Later in the game, Russell added two points after rebounding a three-point attempt by senior guard and co-captain Lilly Paro to bring the score to 67–43 with just under seven minutes left to play. Russell went on to hit a three-pointer, the last basket of the game, with just under a minute left to bring the score to a final 78–59.

DeCandido led the game with 27 points, 20 of which were in the first half. Sophomore guard Claire Gulbin led the Camels with 14 points in the game, followed by sophomore guard/forward Jenna Whelan and senior guard Sami Ashton, who each put up 10.

Russell and sophomore guard Sofia Rosa both put up nine points for the Jumbos and Rosa grabbed eight rebounds. Senior guard Cailin Harrington led the game with 10 rebounds.

The game followed the Jumbos’ matchup against the Trinity Bantams the night before. In order to stay fresh and focused, the Jumbos did a shoot around on Saturday morning to fine-tune their shots.

“It’s definitely a quick turnaround,” coach Jill Pace said. “But I think the team does a nice job focusing and they understand the back to back games, so they do a nice job of refocusing from Friday to Saturday.”

On Friday, Poindexter McHan led the Jumbos with a career-high 14 points to push past Trinity 77–61. The Bantams’ loss, and their subsequent loss to the Bates Bobcats on Saturday, brought the Bantams’ record to 15–7 on the season and an even 4–4 in the NESCAC.

The game was back-and-forth until the second half, with the Jumbos going into the third quarter ahead 35–34. Beginning with four points from Briggs at the start of the second half, the Jumbos began to pull away, ending the third quarter ahead 53–48. 

A three-pointer from senior guard Sadie Otley — who ended the night with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists — put Tufts on the board immediately in the fourth quarter. The Jumbos stayed ahead, ultimately ending the game with a 16 point lead.

First-year guard Bria Fuller led the game with 19 points for Trinity. Sophomore center Elizabeth Althoff and senior guard/forward and co-captain Peace Kabari also both put up 10 points and five rebounds for the Bantams.

For the Jumbos, Briggs put up 13 points and six rebounds, while DeCandido added 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

“Trinity is a really tough physical team, so I think just matching that with our defense on Friday was really important for us,” Pace said. “But, we improved from game to game especially defensively and then offensively just improving from Trinity to [Conn. College] and moving the ball inside and out.”

The Jumbos are back in action this weekend when they will host the Middlebury Panthers and Williams Ephs in the last two games before postseason play begins. 

“It’s an exciting weekend, we get to celebrate our seniors next weekend, and it’s also our alumni day so it’s a really special weekend in addition to the last weekend of the regular season,” Pace said. “In terms of the prep, just really similar prep in terms of film and scout and working on ourselves especially at the beginning of the week.”

Middlebury comes in with a last place 1–7 record in the NESCAC, while Williams sits in fourth place with a 5–3 conference record. Tufts looks to maintain its undefeated record and make a run into the upcoming playoffs.

“I’m really excited just to be part of the team and be a part of something that’s so successful,” Russell said. “It’s such a great team because we’re always cheering each other on, and I can’t wait to be part of making a run with this team.”