MEDFORD – In a very competitive New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) that possesses four nationally-ranked teams, Tufts men's basketball finished as the No. 8 seed for the 2018-19 NESCAC Championship. The Jumbos will begin the NESCAC playoffs on Saturday when they travel to number one overall seed Middlebury College for a 3 pm tip-off in Pepin Gymnasium.
The Jumbos ended the regular season with an overall record of 11-13 and were 4-6 in conference action. One of those conference victories came over Bowdoin on January 5, which gave them the tie-breaker edge over the Polar Bears for the eighth and final seed in the conference tournament.
Tickets for Saturday's game will be $5 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens.
Middlebury and Tufts met on January 12 at Cousens Gymnasium with the Jumbos recording an 86-84 victory. Jumbo sophomore Brennan Morris drained a contested jumper with seven seconds left for the winning basket. Morris ended the contest with a team-high 17 points on 6-11 shooting. Four other Jumbos scored in double-figures against the Panthers. Middlebury was led by Eric McCord who recorded a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
The Jumbos' offense often looks to push the ball up the floor, gets double-digit points per game from four players and has averaged 82.1 points per game this season. The brown and blue have connected on 226 threes, second-most in NESCAC. Junior captain Eric Savage leads the offensive unit with 15.6 points per game and has scored double-digit points in each of his past 10 contests. He netted a season-high 27 against Amherst. Tufts sophomores Luke Rogers (14.5), Morris (13.7), and Justin Kouyoumdjian (10.1) all improved their scoring averages from their freshman campaigns as they become part of the key core of Tufts' offense. Freshmen Tyler Aronson and Carson Cohen have also shown potential in the backcourt, averaging 9.7 and 8.2 points per game.
Savage and Cohen lead the way with 3.3 assists per night as the team averages 16.8 helpers, which is good for fourth in the NESCAC. Rogers is active on the boards as he pulls down 9.3 rebounds per game and 3.3 come on the offensive end to give the Jumbos' another chance to score.
This is the ninth straight season Tufts has earned a spot in the NESCAC Tournament and the 15th time in program history since the tourney started in 2001. The brown and blue's best run came in the 2005-06 season when they reached the NESCAC championship against Amherst and fell 94-86 in overtime. The Jumbos will be attempting to reach the conference semifinals for the third time in the last four seasons.
No. 25 Middlebury ended the regular season with an overall record of 18-6 and were 7-3 in the NESCAC. They earned the number one seed after winning a tie-breaker against Amherst and Hamilton. The Panthers have appeared in 15 conference tournaments and have a combined record of 19-10, including four NESCAC Championship victories. Middlebury has had recent success as they have won two of the past three title games. These two teams have met twice in the conference tournament, with the Panthers winning both times.
The Panthers have an explosive offense that puts up an average of 86.3 points per game, which ranks second in the NESCAC. The backcourt of sophomores Jack Farrell and Max Bosco lead the Panther offense as they score 16.4 and 15.6 points per contest respectively. Junior forward Matt Folger contributes on both ends of the floor as he chips in 15.3 points and 9.1 rebounds. Middlebury is the second-best rebounding team in the conference with 45.0 per game, so the Jumbos will have to attack the glass early and often. Seniors McCord and Hilal Dahleh have started 23 games each and combine to score 16.0 points per game.
The winner of Saturday's contest will advance to the NESCAC semifinals on February 23 at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello