Coming off a five-overtime thriller that ended in heartbreak, the Tufts men’s basketball team looked to bounce back against a hot team in Nichols College, but fell just short in the second period by dropping a double-digit lead and ultimately losing 90–85. Head Coach Brandon Linton, who left Nichols College last year to continue his coaching career at Tufts, mixed and matched lineups again to try and find the right group that could hold up defensively but still maintain the offensive rhythm that the Jumbos have lacked since losing former NESCAC Player of the Year senior center and co-captain Luke Rodgers to injury in their first game of the season. The home team also played without junior guard Carson Cohen and sophomore guard Jay Dieterle, both of whom offer playmaking and scoring skills. Junior guard Dylan Thoerner, who came second on the team in scoring with 15 points, explains how the team must make up for all these injuries.
“I think that’s part of the juggling act that we’re dealing with this first semester, a lot of our key guys getting injured, so everyone’s trying to figure out their role on the team,” Thoerner said.
In lieu of their presence, junior guard and co-captain Tyler Aronson took command of the game, and the offense ran through him, which worked for the first three quarters as Aronson was hot from the field. The high pick and roll allowed Aronson to get a switch on a bigger man who he could easily outmaneuver and get to his spot for the open jump shot. Aronson scored 22 points on 22 shots and gathered nine rebounds. Tufts played well in the first period, going into halftime with a 45–39 lead while only shooting around 40% from the field.
At the start of the second period, the Jumbos improved their shooting and increased the lead. With 10 minutes left, they were up 74–63. The Bison slowly started to chip away at the lead by running in transition and forcing Tufts to rush their offense. The Jumbos needed to play with every second on the shot clock to win, which means moving the ball around the arc and getting shooters open with off ball screens. Beating the zone is difficult if a team is shooting 20% from long range, and once the Bison made an adjustment to allow more 3 pointers and protect the paint, the Jumbos’ offensive game plan went sideways. Usually when the other team goes on a run that puts the lead in jeopardy, the team that’s ahead calls a timeout to make changes to the strategy, or even to draw up an inbounds play to get two easy points and stop the opposing run. However, Coach Linton opted to not call a timeout until the Jumbos were down by four with three minutes left, and all the momentum had already switched to the Bison.
Tufts tried to mount a late comeback, but the Bison refused to let up and made their late game free throws to seal the deal and come away with a hard fought 90–85 victory. The Jumbos move to 2–7 for the season while the Bison improve to 9–1. Tufts gets a break until Dec. 29 when they play Carthage College. Hopefully that will give them enough time to get better from the ‘injury bug.’ If the Jumbos hope to claim the NESCAC title, they will have to figure out their issues sooner rather than later.