Jumbos Fall Short in NCAA Semifinals

Women’s basketball team ends season at record-tying 30–3

Tufts player charing toward the hoop

The Tufts women’s basketball team fought back from a 17-point deficit with nine minutes remaining before losing 62–52 to Thomas More College in the NCAA championship semifinals played at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 20. Thomas More went on to win its first national title a day later.

In the consolation game on March 21, Tufts fell to Montclair State 56–48, to finish their season at 30–3. The Jumbos tied the school record for victories and won the New England Small College Athletic Conference, NCAA Regional and NCAA Sectional titles for the second year in a row.

The Thomas More Saints led 46–29 on an Abby Owings jump shot with 9:14 to play in the second half. Tufts, which was 1 for 11 shooting in the half up to that point, recovered to score the next nine points and cut the margin to 46–38 on a layup by Josie Lee with 5:21 on the clock. Lee had five points during the run, and junior Emma Roberson scored four.

Tufts came within six points three times in the final 90 seconds, including twice with the ball. But they could not make the shots to pull off what would have been a stunning comeback. The Saints closed out the victory with four free throws in the final 22 seconds.

The Jumbos, who held the Saints more than 24 points below their season-scoring average of 86.3, were hindered by two long stretches of offensive inefficiency. Thomas More outscored them 11–0 in the final six minutes of the first half to lead by eight at the break, 29–21. Tufts then scored only six points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Still, the Jumbos fought back and were in it at the end. A three-pointer by Stephanie Krusling, which gave the Saints a 54–41 lead with 3:11 remaining, looked like the dagger. However, the Jumbos got a layup from Lee and a three-pointer from Kelsey Morehead to close within eight (54–46) at the two-minute mark.

After both teams turned the ball over, Tufts junior Emma Roberson went to the line and hit two free throws, pulling the Jumbos to 54–48 with 1:22 left. Not long after, Morehead grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled; her two free throws brought the Jumbos to 56–50 with 45 seconds left. After nearly turning the ball over again, the Saints added a pair of free throws by Sydni Wainscott for a 58–50 edge.

Moss fouled Roberson just two seconds into the next Jumbo possession, and the Tufts junior was clutch at the line again, making two for a 58–52 score. Thomas More turned it over immediately, and Tufts needed two three-point shots to make it a one-possession game with 25 seconds to go. Neither dropped, and the Saints held on for the win.

With her game-high 23 points, Moss—the nation’s leading scorer—set the NCAA record for most points in an NCAA tournament, with 178. She added 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Lee led the Jumbos with 13 points, making six of nine shots and adding eight rebounds (six offensive). North had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Morehead added nine points and six rebounds.

Tufts guard Kelsey Morehead, A15, drives past Montclair State’s Zoe Curtis in the first half of the NCAA final four consolation game. Photo: Kelvin MaTufts guard Kelsey Morehead, A15, drives past Montclair State’s Zoe Curtis in the first half of the NCAA final four consolation game. Photo: Kelvin Ma
In the consolation game on March 21, Montclair State beat Tufts 56–48, with the Jumbos shooting just 27.6 percent in the first half. The Red Hawks slowly pulled away and were ahead 50–37 with 5:17 to go in the second half.

Like they had the night before against Thomas More, the Jumbos stuck with it. A three by first-year Lauren Dillon bookended by four free throws from sophomore North and two by junior Michelle Wu brought the margin down to seven (53–46) with 1:24 remaining. Time would run out on the Jumbos, though.

North led Tufts with another double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds to go with two blocks. Melissa Baptisa scored 10 points with three blocks, and her classmate Dillon finished with eight rebounds.

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

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