Amherst, MA

Men’s basketball splits first NESCAC weekend

The Tufts Daily

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Coach Bob Sheldon is pictured with the men's basketball team after the team won the NESCAC championship game against Colby in Cousens Gym onNicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

By Keila McCabe

Men’s basketball earned mixed results over winter break, bringing its overall record to 6–8. After a rocky start to the season, the team started to find its groove during its trip to Nashville for the Music City Classic. The squad competed against its first NESCAC opponents, losing to Hamilton (77–64) and beating Amherst (74–66). In its final matchup of the break, Tufts basketball secured a commanding victory over New England College (79–53). Senior center Luke Rogers made his return to play over the break after missing the first eight games of the season. Rogers said he’s optimistic about the trajectory of the team.

“Obviously we didn’t have the best start to the season but the whole team has really bought into the idea that in second semester we can really learn from our mistakes in the first semester,” Rogers said. “What’s interesting about basketball, and winter sports in general, is that it is divided between first and second semester so it almost feels like there’s two chapters to the story. It gives you an opportunity to sit there and reflect and reset and come back stronger.”

In their first NESCAC game of the season, the Jumbos faced off against the Hamilton Continentals. Despite a competitive run in the last five minutes of the game, a first-half deficit proved too large to overcome for the Jumbos. The team was missing both its head coach and other key players due to COVID-19 protocols and, therefore, took a bit of time to find its cohesive rhythm. 

The following day, the Jumbos had a slow start against the Amherst Mammoths, finding themselves down by 12 just a few minutes into the game. However, a combination of ball movement and good shooting yielded a very competitive first-half ending in a tie (33–33). The two teams continued to go back and forth, leaving them tied 50–50 and 61–61 during the second half. With about three minutes left in the game, a 3-point shot made by senior guard Will Brady gave the Jumbos the lead, and they continued to outscore their opponents for the remainder of the contest. Graduate student guard Brennan Morris led the team with 14 points, going 4–5 from beyond the arc. Many players noticeably contributed to the win as seen in the roster’s scoring spread for the game. Junior guard Dylan Thoerner made note of the team effort. 

“We played really tough and we were really well rounded,” Thoerner said. “We had a lot of guys score in double figures and it was a great team win. That’s really what it takes, especially in those NESCAC games. Saturday is a lot about who’s tougher, who’s going to be mentally stronger after playing a game less than 24 hours before. Being able to take a win against a solid team like that shows our depth and how we have so many guys that can really step up.”

Given COVID-19 complications and many unexpected injuries throughout the season, Rogers said he hopes to continue focusing on what the team can control. 

“Going into games a lot of it isn’t about what the other team is doing, we just need to focus on our game and not let opponents dictate what we do. We need to control the controllable. Stuff you can control is your effort, your focus, your communication. Simple things like that are the intangibles that help win games,” he said.

With the Jumbos headed into a string of six NESCAC games, both Rogers and Thoerner said they were excited to finally start playing the games they’ve been preparing for all season.

“I took a gap year last year so I could come back and play another year,” Rogers said. “This is what I came back for. These NESCAC games are so much fun to be a part of because of the competitive atmosphere. Knowing the competition and how they play just makes it really competitive and a lot of fun. It’s something that’s a blessing to be a part of. At this point, our goal is to win the NESCAC tournament, get into the playoffs and make a run.”

The team’s next game is at Bates at 3 p.m. this Saturday.

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