Women’s hoops secures at-large NCAA bid

Women’s basketball (20-6, 7-3 in the NESCAC) fell 53-40 to Tufts last Saturday in the semifinals of the NESCAC tournament. This defeat caused the Ephs to lose out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III tournament.
“Our defense was really good, and our offense has just sputtered a little bit,” Head Coach Pat Manning said.
The Ephs were first to get on the board with a layup by Katie Litman ’16. A jump shot by Amanni Fernandez ’18 kept the Ephs in the lead. After missing its opening shot, Tufts made five consecutive baskets from the field to take a 10-4 lead in the opening minutes. The Ephs responded by holding the Jumbos without a basket for five minutes. However, the Ephs’ efforts only enabled them to come within two points of the Jumbos, as their offense failed to find any momentum.
As Tufts began to pull away with a seven-point lead, Devon Caveney ’17 sparked the Ephs’ offense by scoring the next eight points for the Ephs. A three-pointer off a steal by Oge Uwanaka ’16 tied the game up at 16-16 with six minutes left in the half. Williams struggled to keep up on offense, but defensive pressure by Uwanaka and co-captain Kellie Macdonald ’15 helped the women hold Tufts’ league-leading offense to 26 points in the first half.
“I thought defensively we did a great job,” Manning said. “They have so many weapons, so to be able to hold them to 53 points [in the game] is great.”
Tufts came out at halftime with an 8-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half, putting the women down by 12. Co-captain Ellen Cook ’15 brought the Ephs back into contention with 10 points over the next three-and-a-half minutes. Cook’s three-pointer with 13:18 left to play put the score at 34-33 in favor of the Jumbos. After a seven-minute scoring drought, Tufts scored two baskets to move ahead by five, but Cook drained another three-pointer to shrink the gap back to two.
After a Jumbos’ score, Litman added a basket with eight minutes left to put the Ephs down 40-38, but that was as close as the Ephs would get. The Ephs struggled to make shots coming down the stretch, going 1-14 from the field to close the game.
“Our offense just never clicked, and I credit a lot of that to Tufts’ defense,” Manning said. “We just couldn’t come up with a big shot.”The Jumbos pulled away as the game progressed, and the Ephs were forced to foul in order to have a chance. Tufts nailed 12 out of 16 free throws in the game, which secured the 53-40 victory.“It was a much tighter game than the final score indicated,” Manning said. However, the Ephs season is far from over. Last Monday, the NCAA announced that the Ephs earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Div. III tournament for the third-consecutive year. Williams will take on Stevenson in the opening round on Friday. The winner of Friday’s game will go on to face either Regis or host Montclair State on Saturday.