MEDFORD – No. 6 Tufts women's basketball enters the New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament for the 18th season straight season and will host a quarterfinal contest for the eighth straight year. The third-seeded Jumbos will open the 2018-19 NESCAC Championship on Saturday at 3 pm in Cousens Gymnasium against sixth-seeded Williams College.
Tufts ended the regular season 22-2 overall and 8-2 in conference action. Tufts defeated Trinity 60-48 in their regular-season finale last Sunday to clinch third-place at the end of conference play. With the win over the Bantams, the Jumbos posted three wins over teams that are regionally-ranked in New England and improved their home record at Cousens to 10-2.
The brown and blue have had many successes in NESCAC's as they have reached the championship game five straight seasons and won two NESCAC titles in program history. Those wins came against Amherst 62-46 in the 2013-14 season and versus Bowdoin 68-52 in the 2014-15 campaign. In the conference tournament, Tufts has a combined record of 19-15 overall and have been in the final eight times overall.
Tufts' defense has been outstanding all season long as they only allow 47.6 points per game which is the fewest in the NESCAC and ranks fourth-best in the country. The Jumbos often apply pressure on opposing guards and force an average of 18.8 turnovers per contest, which ranks second among NESCAC teams. Senior co-captain Jac Knapp and first-year guard Molly Ryan lead the defense as they record over 1.5 steals per game. The brown and blue force opposing offenses into tough shots as opponents only shoot 32.3-prcent from the floor.
The Jumbos often turn their defense into offense, which has helped them generate 74.9 points per game. That will be a new school record if the Jumbos can keep pace in the post-season as they current mark stands at 71.0 by the 1991-92 Tufts team. Knapp, junior co-captain Erica DeCandido and sophomore Emily Briggs all average double-digit points in the Jumbos' balanced offensive attack. The Jumbos often get the best shot available as they shoot 45.1-percent, ranked second in NESCAC. Tufts does a great job protecting the ball and finding the open teammate as they have the third-best assist to turnover ratio at 1.33 in the country. The brown and blue dish out an average of 17.0 assists per night led by 3.4 from DeCandido.
Senior Katie Martensen and sophomore Angela Alibrandi provide sparks off the bench and collect rebounds to get the offense going in transition. The Jumbos' junior class of Cailin Harrington, Sadie Otley, and Lilly Paro have all chipped in double-digit performances this season. Tufts has gotten solid play from first-years Ryan, Janette Wadolowski, and Sofia Rosa as each of them average over 5.0 points per game.
Williams finished the regular season with an 11-13 overall record and 5-5 in NESCAC games. The Ephs have qualified for the conference tournament in each of the past 19 seasons and have posted a record of 10-18 overall and are 9-9 in quarterfinal contests. Williams reached their lone NESCAC Championship game in the 2012-13 season, but fell 53-38 to Amherst. Tufts and Williams last met in the playoffs during the 2016-17 season, with the Jumbos prevailing 58-40. The Jumbos have won the last 11 meetings between the two teams.
The Ephs have averaged 61.7 ppg and allow 60.1 points per game in their 24 games. Williams' leading scorer is Maggie Meehan, who averages 12.5 points per contest. Senior Lauren Vostal is active on both ends of the floor as she records 10.0 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per night. The Ephs also get 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game from junior Katie Brule, who has started all 24 games.
This will be the third time these teams have met this year, with Tufts winning the first two. In the first contest on December 1, the Jumbos won 67-41 at the Williams Tournament led by Knapp's game-high 18 points. Williams got a team-high 14 points from Meehan. When they met in conference action on January 11, Harrington scored 16 points as Tufts won 60-39. Brule recorded 10 points and six rebounds in the contest for the Ephs.
Saturday's winner will advance to the NESCAC semifinals on February 23 at the site of the highest seed.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello