BABSON PARK, Mass. – The No. 14 Tufts men's basketball team and the No. 3 Babson men's basketball team battled it out on Friday night in NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" action with a trip to the "Elite 8" on the line. The Beavers were able to outlast the Jumbos for an 87-80 win in Staake Gym to advance in NCAA Tournament play.
|Tom Palleschi finished with 13 points and five rebounds Friday night.|
With the loss the Jumbo see their season come to an end with a 22-7 mark after making their second consecutive "Sweet 16" appearance and earning the first seed and hosting the NESCAC Tournament for the first time in program history. Babson improves to 28-8 and will advance to the NCAA Sectional Final on Saturday at 7 pm.
Things started in the Beavers favor and, the Jumbos would overcome a sizable first half deficit. They found themselves down early, as Babson came out on fire and after the two teams traded baskets to open play the Beavers scored 11 unanswered points to take a 13-2 lead just three minutes into play. The Jumbos responded, and by the halfway mark of the half they had cut the lead to five, 23-18, after a layup from junior Vincent Pace with 10:44 left in the half.
The Beavers would go on a roll again, as Joey Flannery made a layup and was fouled, sinking the free throw to increase the lead to eight, 28-20, with 6:44 left in the half. Less than a minute later, Flannery dunked to give the Beavers the 30-20 advantage. The Beavers were up by ten, 36-26, with just over four minutes to go when the Jumbos started their comeback.
Freshman Eric Savage made a jumper and followed that with a three to bring the Jumbos within five, 36-31, with 3:35 remaining in the half. After a layup from Flannery for the Beavers, Savage and Palleschi turned in back-to-back two's to bring the Jumbos within three. With 53 seconds left in the half Savage tied it at 38 with a three. Isaiah Nelsen put the Beavers back on top, 40-38, just seconds later. But on their final possession of the half, senior tri-captain Tarik Smith missed a three, sophomore Ethan Feldman got the offensive rebound and drained a three at the buzzer to give the Jumbos their first lead of the night and the 41-40 advantage heading into halftime.
Both teams came out of the half strong, and the Jumbos took a six point lead with back-to-back threes from Palleschi and junior Ben Engvall about three minutes into the second half. Charlie Rice answered with a three of his own for the Beavers, and then a Nelson layup followed by the made free throw tied the game at 51 with 15:35 remaining. Nick Comenale would then make a three to give the Beavers the 54-51 lead and they would not trail after that.
The Jumbos would not give up and kept the Babson lead to under six for most of the second half. With 6:41 left in the game, Flannery made two free throws to put the Beavers up, 68-62. And then Flannery and Rice made back-to-back threes to give the Beavers the 74-62 advantage. That was a lead they were able to hold on to, and they closed out the 87-80 win.
Savage finished with a team-high 20 points off the bench for the Jumbos, and added a team-high seven rebounds to his efforts. Pace and Feldman each finished with 14 points and Pace added seven rebounds. Palleschi totaled 13 points and five rebounds, and Engvall finished with nine points and four boards.
For the Beavers, Flannery had a game-high 38 points including a 15-for-17 mark from the free throw line and eight rebounds to go along with that. Nelsen finished with 22 points and six rebounds and Rice totaled 13 points and seven boards.
The Beavers will host Keene State in "Elite 8" action on Saturday night in Staake Gym with a trip to the "Final Four" on the line. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm.