NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Tufts 58, No. 7 Williams 50

NESCAC Quarterfinal: No. 2 Tufts 58, No. 7 Williams 50

Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information

MEDFORD, Mass. – Senior captain Michela North recorded game highs of 14 points and 10 rebounds, to lead No. 2 Tufts past seventh-seeded Williams, 58-40, in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Cousens Gym.

Sophomore Jacqueline Knapp scored nine of her 11 points in the first half for the Jumbos (24-1), while also posting a team-high three steals and going 5-for-9 from the field. The Ephs (15-10) were led by senior Lauren McCall, as she totaled eight points, a team-high eight rebounds and a game-high four steals. Junior guard Amanni Fernandez dropped a team-high 10 points and dished out a game-high five dimes.

The second-seeded Jumbos will take on third-seeded Bowdoin (21-3) in the semifinals of the NESCAC Championship on Saturday (4 p.m.) at Amherst. The Tufts defeated the Polar Bears by a three-point margin, 46-43, on Jan. 6 at Cousens Gym. Bowdoin posted a convincing 72-47 triumph over Connecticut College in quarterfinal action on Saturday in Brunswick, Maine. The other semifinal matchup on Saturday at Amherst will feature the top-seeded Purple & White against fifth-seeded Colby at 2 p.m.  

Junior captain and point guard Lauren Dillon (eight points, three assists, two steals) set up North for a layup 1:45 into the game, and then she buried a 3-point shot with 7:17 left in the first, giving the hosts a 5-2 lead. The Ephs took an 8-7 lead on a layup by junior Kristin Fechtelkotter with 5:50 remaining in the first.

The Jumbos' used a quick 7-0 spurt, as junior guard Jennie Mucciarone fed Knapp with a textbook in-bounds pass, and Knapp scored a layup and absorbed contact, converting an old-fashioned 3-point play and giving the Jumbos a 14-8 lead with 2:57 on the clock.

Tufts led, 17-12, at the conclusion of the first frame, and then the hosts' registered the first eight points of the second, with a jumper by Knapp giving them a 25-12 lead with 4:54 left. The Jumbos' defense, which forced 23 turnovers, kept the Ephs off the scoreboard for the first 5:31 of the second and for a total of six minutes, including the end of the first quarter.

Knapp knocked down another mid-range jumper with 2:06 left in the half, as the Jumbos' lead ballooned to double digits at 27-16 and Tufts took a 32-18 lead into intermission. Knapp and North combined for 17 first-half points, going a combined 8-for-14 from the floor.

Both teams struggled from the field during the game, as the Jumbos' shot 34.3 percent from the field (23-for-67) and 16.0 percent from long range (4-for-25). The Ephs' went 15-for-45 on field goals (33.3 percent) and 1-for-16 on the 3-point range (6.3 percent). Williams was 9-for-10 from the charity stripe and the Jumbos' buried eight of their 11 free-throw attempt.

The Ephs' refused to call it quits in the second half, closing the gap to 10, 34-24, on a layup by Fechtelkotter with 7:34 left in the third. But Tufts responsed by scoring 14 of the final 20 points in the frame, to take a 48-30 lead into the fourth.

Williams trimmed Tufts' lead to 54-38 on a jumper by junior Lydia Zaleski with 5:59 remaining in the game, but the Jumbos did not allow the visitors to get any closer.