Next Stop for Women’s Basketball Is NCAA Tourney

Jumbos take second straight NESCAC championship with 16-point win over Bowdoin at Cousens Gym
the Tufts women's basketball team celebrates the NESCAC win
The Tufts women’s basketball team is presented with the 2015 NESCAC championship trophy after defeating Bowdoin, 68-52, at Cousens Gymnasium on March 1. Photo: Kelvin Ma
March 2, 2015

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The Tufts University women’s basketball team won its second straight NESCAC title on March 1, pulling away from Bowdoin College in the second half to earn a 68–52 victory at Cousens Gym.

Four Jumbos scored in double digits, led by junior Emma Roberson, with 16 points. Sophomore Michela North finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Top-seeded Tufts (26–1) earns the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament and will very likely host first- and second-round action at Cousens this weekend, March 6–7.

Bowdoin, which was led by junior Shannon Brady with 15 points and 12 rebounds, was playing in its 10th NESCAC final. The Polar Bears, seeded second in the tournament, dropped to 23–4, and still have a strong chance to earn an NCAA berth when the tournament field is announced this week.

Bowdoin’s Sara Binkhorst gets swarmed by Tufts’ defense in the first half of the NESCAC championship game. Photo: Kelvin MaThe Jumbos never trailed in the game, but weren’t able to pull away until well into the second half. Bowdoin was within seven, 41–34, with 12:33 remaining in regulation. Then, Tufts went on a 12–4 run over the next five minutes to lead by 15 (53–38) on a layup by North.

The Polar Bears whittled the margin down to 10, 54–44, with 5:48 on the clock. But Roberson, on her way to matching a career-high for points, hit a three in response. Tufts would push the margin to 17, and Bowdoin’s last gasp came on a three ball by sophomore Marle Curle that put them down 14 (63–49) with two minutes left.

Forward Michela North, A17, pulls down a rebound ahead of Bowdoin’s Ally Silfen in the NESCAC championship game. Photo: Kelvin MaSophomore Josie Lee, starting in place of senior tri-captain Hannah Foley, who was injured in Saturday’s NESCAC semifinal against Williams, joined Roberson in filling the void. She led Tufts with 9 points in the first half and finished with a career-high 12 to go with six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Lee logged 35 minutes, while Roberson played 37.

A three-point play by senior tri-captain Hayley Kanner opened second-half scoring and gave Tufts a 31–22 lead. The Polar Bears’ 6–2 spurt made it a five-point game at 33–28, but the hosts would soon build their lead to a comfortable margin. The Jumbos shot 72.2 percent (13/18) from the field in the second half and added 11 points at the line.

Kanner was the fourth Jumbo to score in double figures with 12. Tufts finished the game shooting 52.3 percent (23/44) and blocked eight shots.

The women’s basketball team celebrates after defeating Bowdoin in the NESCAC championship game. Photo: Kelvin MaTufts has now won 26 straight games against NESCAC opponents in the regular season and postseason combined.

Semifinal Win over Williams

Much like the first meeting between the 25–1 Jumbos and the 20–6 Ephs, a tightly contested match unfolded at Cousens on Feb. 28 in the semifinal round of the NESCAC tournament, but also like the first meeting, Tufts finished on top, 53–40. Kanner completed a well-rounded game, finishing with 20 points and five blocks.

In the opening minutes of the second half, a massive block from North led to a Tufts possession that ended in the hands of Kanner at the top of the key who swished a three. A similar result befell the Ephs on the next Jumbos possession: This time, sophomore Josie Lee knocked down the deep ball to cap an eight-point Tufts swing that gave the Jumbos their first double-digit lead of the afternoon with 16:59 remaining.

Soon, though, the Ephs were within one. But junior Michelle Wu checked in for the Jumbos and hit her first shot, a long two, to break a Jumbo drought. 

Just when Williams approached to within two, the Jumbos took off on a six-point run that included a Kanner three the hard way and a second Lee long ball to push the lead back to eight with 6:53 left.

With just over three minutes to go, the Ephs committed three fouls in one possession, sending them over the limit—and the Jumbos to the line for the rest of the game. Tufts converted seven of nine trips to the foul line down the stretch, six of which came off of senior Kelsey Morehead’s fingertips, to ice the victory.

While the Ephs had slight advantages in turnovers and steals, the Jumbos decisively won the assists, blocks and rebounds categories. Kanner swatted five, while North batted away four, and junior Maura Folliard registered one. Williams recorded four total. The Jumbos also dished out 11 helpers, with Lauren Dillon handing out 4, compared with Williams’ 5 total. North collected a monster 16 boards for Tufts, which, as a team, hauled down 52 boards to Williams’ 39.

Tufts Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney can be reached at paul.sweeney@tufts.edu.

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