Women’s Basketball Headed to 2017 NCAA Final Four
Senior captain Michela North corralled her 14th career double-double in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the No. 4 Tufts women’s basketball team on March 11 in a 57-43 win over hometown host Washington University (No. 6), during the Elite Eight in St. Louis, Missouri.
With the victory, the Jumbos punched their ticket to a fourth consecutive Final Four. The Jumbos will face St. Thomas (Minn.) this Friday, March 17, at the Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Jumbos (29-2) continue to perform their best when the lights shine the brightest—the team has a 17-5 record during the last four seasons in the NCAA Tournament.
During Saturday’s game, North also posted her third career 20-point, 10-rebound performance in the NCAA Tournament, as the 6-foot-2 post player finished with game highs of 20 points and 15 rebounds, shooting a stellar 9-for-12 from the field. Junior forward Melissa Baptista took some of the scoring load off North, scoring all 14 of her points in the second half.
Sophomore guard Jac Knapp reached double figures with 10 points, marking her fourth consecutive game with a double-digit point total. Junior captain and guard Lauren Dillon became the Jumbos’ all-time, single-season leader in steals, posting her 88th of the season with 8:58 left in the second quarter; she passed Lisa Raffin (87 steals, 1980-81).
Senior forward Zoe Vernon led the Washington University Bears with 10 points, going 4-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-3 from 3-point range, while senior forward Lily Sarros finished with seven points and a team-high eight rebounds.
The Bears came into this contest averaging 77.3 points per game, which made them No. 13 in scoring offense among all Division III schools in the country. The Jumbos’ defense, which ranks second in scoring defense (42.5), controlled the tempo of the game, forcing the Bears into difficult shots off the dribble and long contested jumpers.
Dillon cashed in on a runner down the right side of the lane with seven seconds left in the first half, giving the Jumbos a 19-18 lead heading into intermission.
Baptista buried a 3-pointer nine seconds into the third, but the Bears tried to use the energy from the home crowd to stay in the game, as a driving layup by sophomore guard Claudia Smith trimmed the Jumbos’ lead to 27-23 with 7:27 left in the period.
The Jumbos claimed complete control of the game with a crucial 8-0 run, starting with Knapp going 2-for-2 from the free-throw line and ending with a deadly turnaround jumper by North over her right shoulder on the right block, giving the visitors a 35-23 advantage with 4:22 on the clock.
The Jumbos began to pull away early in the fourth. Baptista drilled a crucial step-back trey from the top of the circle at the end of the shot clock with 8:55 left, extending the Jumbos’ lead to 44-30.
A three-ball by Knapp made the score 47-30 with 8:05 left. The Bears tried to make a late run by applying high-energy, full-court pressure, but the closest they were able to get was 12.
The Jumbos shot 35.8 percent from the floor (19-for-53), 18.8 percent from downtown (3-for-16), and 76.2 percent from the free-throw line (16-for-21), as freshman guard/forward Erica DeCandido went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe off the bench. The Bears went 18-for-59 from the floor (30.5 percent), 2-for-13 from downtown (15.4 percent), and 5-for-10 from the line (50.0 percent). The Jumbos won the rebounding margin, 46-36.
Contact Trevor Wenners, a communications intern in Tufts Athletics, at email@example.com.