Women’s Basketball Falls in NCAA Semifinals

The streak runs out after the Jumbos’ first trip to the Final Four

The women’s basketball team, the first in Tufts history to reach the NCAA Division III Final Four, could not pull out a victory against undefeated Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham on March 21, falling 42–39. In the consolation game, they lost to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 72–54, to finish their season at 30–3. The Jumbos set a school record for victories and won their first-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference title.

On March 21, for the third time in the last four NCAA championship rounds, the Jumbos played in a game that wasn’t decided until the final buzzer. However, unlike the other two, the Jumbos were on the wrong side of the loss to FDU-Florham in the national semifinals at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. FDU-Florham went on to win the NCAA championship, beating Whitman 80–72 and ending its perfect season with a 33–0 record.

Tufts first-year Michela North had 13 points and seven rebounds to top the Jumbos. Junior Kelsey Morehead finished with seven points, five rebounds and three assists.

The game went down to the wire, just like Tufts’ earlier NCAA victories against the University of New England in the second round on March 8 and versus Ithaca College in the national quarterfinals on March 15. However, the Jumbos couldn’t get the baskets they needed to advance to the NCAA title game.

The FDU-Florham Devils had a 40–32 lead over the Jumbos with 8:30 remaining in the second half after a basket by sophomore Shalette Brown. Tufts closed the margin to 40–38 with points from North, senior tri-captain Ali Rocchi and sophomore Emma Robertson, making it 40–38 with 6:38 on the clock. 

Both teams struggled to score the rest of the game. Tufts had four chances up the floor to tie the game and could not convert before Brown put the Devils up 42–38 at 3:27. The Jumbos did not score a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game.

Likewise, FDU-Florham was unable to add to their slim margin. When North hit a free throw with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, the Jumbos were down 42–39. 

Tufts fouled Kyra Dayon with 21 seconds left. She missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Brown grabbed the rebounds. The Jumbos fouled Brown, she also missed, and this time Dayon grabbed the rebound.

With 14 seconds to go, Robertson stole an inbounds pass, giving the Jumbos a final chance. They came up court and called a time out with nine seconds left. Struggling to find a shot, Hannah Foley’s desperation, off-balance three-pointer was off the mark, giving the Devils the victory.

The Jumbos uncharacteristically turned the ball over 19 times, and the Devils scored 18 points off those mistakes. The Devils out-rebounded the Jumbos 40–33 and had 19 at the offensive end.

Tufts held the Devils under 50 points for the first time all season. FDU shot 27.6 percent (16/58) overall, while Tufts finished at 34.8 percent (16/46). The Jumbos hit just two of 14 three-point attempts.

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Watch a slideshow of the consolation game against Wisconsin-Whitewater. Photos: Kelvin Ma

In the consolation game against Wisconsin-Whitewater on March 22, North again led the Jumbos with 14 points. She made all six of her field-goal attempts and added six rebounds and three assists. Rocci contributed eight points and six rebounds for the Jumbos.

The Jumbos trailed 26–22 at halftime, but opened the second half with a three-pointer by Kelsey Morehead to close the margin to 26–25. That was as close as Tufts got. The Warhawks scored 12 of the next 14 points, including eight by Mary Merg to take an 11-point, 38–27 advantage with 14:36 on the second-half clock.

Tufts, 12 for 25 at the free-throw line (48 percent), shot just two for 12 on three-pointers (16.7 percent). They finished at 37.7 percent (20/53) overall.

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

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