Despite record-low temperatures outside, Tufts women’s basketball stayed hot on the courts in Maine, securing two road victories over conference opponents Colby and Bowdoin. The Jumbos returned from the trip on a four-game winning streak, building crucial momentum as the end of regular season approaches and they gear up for NESCAC tournament play.
Travel delays on Friday due to extreme cold weather caused the contest against the Mules to start late, and the Jumbos’ offense seemed to be running behind as well. Junior forward Maggie Russell, a key scorer, did not notch a single point for the entire first half, but she broke out in a big way during the final quarter, scoring 14 points after her team entered the period trailing by one.
“The setting was a little different from what we’re used to,” sophomore forward Caitlyn O’Boyle said. “There were not a lot of fans in the gym. It was really cold. …There were a lot of different aspects of that game that just shook us up a bit, … but once we got used to it, we got into a better flow and just went off from there.”
A scrappy defensive showing allowed the Jumbos to remain competitive, forcing 20 turnovers while the offense gradually warmed up. Junior Hannah Kelly and sophomore Sofia Gonzalez both put up 12 points against the Mules, and Russell’s monster fourth quarter propelled the team to its third straight win, with a score of 59–53.
“If we weren’t hitting shots on offense, we knew that we had to make up for it on defense if we wanted to stay in the game, … and that’s what we did,” O’Boyle said.
Tufts hit the icy roadway once again on Saturday, traveling to Bowdoin for an afternoon matchup. The momentum from the win at Colby led to a much more explosive showing on offense against Bowdoin.
“After the game before, we realized that if we want to win games … by larger amounts, then we can’t get ourselves into holes like we did the day before,” O’Boyle said.
The offense effectively executed the adjustments and dominated in the finale of the weekend against the Polar Bears. Gonzales headed the charge with 23 points, and Russell tallied a career-high 21 rebounds and an additional 17 points. Tufts led by as many as 12 points throughout the game, ultimately toppling Bowdoin 66–54.
Russell’s late-game fireworks in Maine earned her NESCAC Player of the Week honors for the third time this season. Her double-double against the Polar Bears solidified her position as the No. 2 player in the conference for rebounds, averaging 10.9 points per game.
Two tough contests stand between the Jumbos and the No. 1 seed in the conference as Tufts prepares to face Wesleyan and Trinity this upcoming weekend. Tufts and Trinity are currently tied at the top of the NESCAC rankings, and the privilege of hosting the conference tournament is on the line.
“We’re focusing on the next step; we’re not looking too far in advance,” said O’Boyle. “We’re not thinking about the championship. … We’re taking it slow, practice by practice, game by game.”
Behind-the-scenes strategies contributed greatly to the Jumbos’ recent string of wins, and the focus on mentality and team chemistry will remain a priority as NESCAC play approaches.
“We always talk about our attitude. … We do quotes before every practice,” O’Boyle said. “If we just keep our spirits and our mentality up, the basketball will just come.”
Tufts takes on Wesleyan on Friday at 7 p.m. and Trinity on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Cousens Gymnasium for the final games of the regular season.