NCAA Third Round: Tufts 55, Messiah 41

NCAA Third Round: Tufts 55, Messiah 41

Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information

SCRANTON, Pa. – In a battle of two of the top defenses in the country, Tufts used a strong second half to punch its ticket into the "Elite Eight" with a 55-41 victory over Messiah on Friday night at Long John Center on the campus of Scranton College in a "Sweet 16" matchup.

Tufts improves to 28-2 overall and recorded its 33rd NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Messiah ends its season with a 28-2 record and fell to Tufts for the second season in a row in the third round. The loss also snapped Messiah's 28-game win streak. 

Erica DeCandido posted a double-double with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds to go with four assists. Cailin Harrington also netted double-figures with 14 points and hit three 3-pointers in the game.

Maci Thornton led all scorers with 20 points to pace Messiah and Alecia Rohrer grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and chipped in four points. 

The Jumbos dominated the boards, outrebounding Messiah 42-29 and the game featured four ties and five lead changes.

Trailing 26-22 entering the third quarter, Messiah's Megan Zimmerman hit a layup close within two. Tufts answered by holding Messiah scoreless and went on a 9-0 run, fueled by five points from Molly Ryan and outscored Messiah 7-2 over the final two minutes of the quarter to take a 43-30 lead at the end of the stanza. Tufts finished the third quarter outscoring the Falcons 17-8.

The Falcons went on a 6-2 run and climbed back within 10 points of the lead to open the fourth quarter. Tufts defense stepped up and held the Falcons scoreless for the next three minutes after a Thornton 3-pointer. Over the final 2:06 of the game, Harington and Sadie Otley combined for three free throws to help secure the victory.

DeCandido netted the Jumbos first five points and five of the games' first seven points to begin the contest. Messiah's responded with a 7-0 run. The Jumbos held the Falcons to only one field goal and scored six points over the final three minutes of the quarter as the game was tied 13-13 after the first 10 minutes of action.

Both teams continued to play tight defense as over a four-minute span in the middle of the second quarter, as they combined for eight points, including six points from Harrington as she drained a pair of 3-pointers to give the Jumbos a 21-17 edge. Messiah's Becca Isaac hit a three to get the Falcons within one. but over the final 2:54 of the period, Tufts' Sophia Rosa and Thornton scored to help the Jumbos take a 26-22 lead into the locker room.

Tufts advances to the Elite Eight round for the sixth year in a row. The Jumbos will face the winner of the Christopher Newport and Scranton game at 6 p.m. on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.