MEDFORD, Mass. – The Tufts University women's basketball team won their first NCAA Tournament game in this year's tournament, 71-54, against Westfield State Friday night in Cousens Gym.
|Melissa Baptista had five of Tufts' 17 offensive rebounds|
The Jumbos (24-4) earned the right to host games in the first two rounds of the tournament. This was the Owls' (19-8) sixth NCAA appearance after winning their conference this season.
Cailin Harrington had a career-night with highs in both points and rebounds with 17 and eight. Her 28 minutes also marked a career-most. Jac Knapp and Melissa Baptista had 15 points each and Lauren Dillon and Erica DeCandido both had eight. Westfield's Kierra McCarthy led all scorers with 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds as well. Chelsea Moussette was the other Owl to score in double figures with 10.
Westfield employed a unique strategy that made their subbing look more like something you would see in hockey, exchanging entire lines of five for each other about every 45 seconds. They also played a full-court press on the Jumbos for the entire game.
Tufts opened up a 14-2 lead in the opening minutes of the game, starting with a layup from Knapp and reaching its peak after a bucket from Harrington. Westfield got a few back after a three by Mousette and a layup by Keri Paton, but the Jumbos would stretch their lead back out in the final three minutes of the first frame. Sadie Otley, Emily Briggs, Baptista, and Knapp all contributed in the waning minutes of the quarter to end it at 21-11.
The Owls' pressure had a bit more of an effect in the second quarter, chipping the Jumbos' lead down to five with six minutes remaining. Lucy Barrett laid one in for Westfield to bring it to 25-20. But then Harrington scored Tufts' next six points from two buckets and two free throws to help get the Jumbos out of danger. After a Dillon layup to end the half, Tufts went into the break with a 37-27 lead. Harrington led all scorers at the half with 10 points. Knapp was second with nine.
The Jumbos broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Owls 23-13. Baptista had eight in the frame and Dillon had six with a pair of three-pointers. Tufts went into the final quarter with a 60-40 lead.
Harrington ended her night with five points in the fourth, including a three-pointer to put her team up 68-47. From there, Knapp and Angela Alibrandi hit a couple free throws to close things out and giving Tufts a win in their opening round NCAA Tournament game for the seventh straight year.
The Jumbos controlled the boards all game long with a 48-33 advantage there. They outshot the Owls, 41.0 to 33.3 percent from the field and also held a 5-0 edge in blocks, led by Baptista's three.
Tufts will host Ithaca College tomorrow at 5 p.m. in Cousens Gym after they defeated SUNY Geneseo in the other first round game held today in Medford.
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern