Women’s basketball builds on strong preseason form leading into NESCAC play

The Tufts women's basketball team faces off against Smith College on Jan. 31, 2022 Kiana Vallo / The Tufts Daily
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After an impressive preseason, the Tufts women’s basketball team has had a strong start to their NESCAC campaign. The Tufts Jumbos began their season with a 55–38 home win against the Connecticut College Camels with standout performances from sophomore guard Sofia Gonzalez and junior forward Maggie Russell. Gonzalez led the scoring charts with 11 points and three assists while Russell’s 8 points and incredible 12 rebounds kept the Jumbos in control. A strong defensive effort in the first half kept the visitors to just 12 points with the Camels shooting a low 13% from the field in the first quarter as the Jumbos shot 33% and piled on the pressure. 

The Jumbos’ bench contributed 27 points on the night compared to the Camels’ 8 while also outperforming the visitors in points in the paint and second chance points, 22–12 and 14–3 respectively. 

In an email to the Daily, Gonzalez emphasized the team’s unity on the night.

 “[Our win] allowed us to start the NESCAC off strong and allowed us to feel more united as a team as we go into NESCAC play,” Gonzalez wrote. “I thought we played extremely well, and we were not selfish and that showed in the score.”

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Before taking on No. 21 Amherst in its second NESCAC game, Tufts hosted No. 14 Babson in a tightly contested home friendly, finishing 78–76 to the Beavers. The Jumbos started off strong, leading 40–35 in the first half. The Beavers fought back in the third quarter, shooting 44% from the field and out-scoring the Jumbos 2214 and setting up a thrilling final quarter as the Jumbos trailed by just 3 points. In the final 15 seconds, Gonzalez tied the score with a clutch 3-pointer but the Beavers managed to convert a quick layup and held on for the victory. Russell led the scoring with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Gonzalez led the 3-point shooting with 13 points and three assists. First-year forward Sarah Crossett racked up 9 points and three assists while junior guard Hannah Kelly scored 10 and set up one. 

Despite the result, Gonzalez believed the defeat was a great learning opportunity for the team.

 “I think it was a loss we needed to make us stronger due to the close nature of the game. The main takeaway from this game was that in order to win, we cannot take our foot off the gas pedal if we are getting tired or frustrated,” Gonzalez wrote. She added that compared to last year, this team has a better understanding of everyone’s roles and that the roster continues to grow from every experience. 

Up next was Amherst, the side that eliminated Tufts from the NCAA Sweet 16 last year. After strong first quarters from both teams, in which the Jumbos led by 12–4 at early doors, the Mammoths established a 4-point lead going into the break up 34–30 as Jumbos shot 31.3% from the field in the second quarter. The visitors fought back in the third, winning the quarter 14–12 with the score poised at 46–44 against the home side going into the fourth. After a few lead changes, the Jumbos’ resilient defense was able to force a shot clock violation with just over 30 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Gonzalez and Russell combined for a backdoor cut as the sophomore lost her marker and put the visitors up 56–54. Tufts held on for the final seconds to earn a hard-fought win against one of its biggest NESCAC rivals. Gonzalez registered a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds while Russell matched her Babson tally of 12 rebounds and also slotted in 14 points and four assists. Kelly put up 7 points as did Crossett, who also managed seven rebounds. Overall, the Jumbos continued their strong bench contribution (13–2) and presence in the paint, outscoring the Mammoths 28–16. 

Gonzalez echoed the fighting spirit on display against the Mammoths.

 “The Amherst win was such an amazing one because it really showed the team’s ability to persevere through adversity. … We brought some of our best basketball and I was proud of how we were able to battle in such an intense game for the entire 40 minutes. Also, who doesn’t love a good backdoor cut?” In its third NESCAC game of the season, Tufts faced Hamilton College. A slow start saw the home side take an 8–0 lead, which set the tone for what would be a tiring game of catch-up for the Jumbos. Scoring just 5 points in the second quarter, the visitors went into the break trailing 24–13. Struggling in the paint and shooting just 25% from the floor, the Jumbos couldn’t match the intensity they showed against the Mammoths. Crossett led the team, scoring 13 points while junior guard Callie O’Brien scored 9 off the bench. With an overall record of 11–5, currently 2–1 in the NESCAC, the Jumbos will look to build on their strong start as they host the Bates College Bobcats this Saturday.

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