MEDFORD, Mass. – Sophomore guard Jac Knapp dropped a game-high 18 points for the No. 4 Tufts University women's basketball team on Friday evening, as the Jumbos went 10-for-22 from beyond the arc during a 65-44 triumph over Saint Joseph's (Maine) in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Cousens Gym.
|Jac Knapp shot 5-for-7 from the floor for the Jumbos in 35 minutes.|
"It was a great victory," 15th-year head coach Carla Berube said. "Anytime we can get a win in the NCAA Tournament, we are really happy. We knew we needed to come in and play well against a strong Saint Joseph's team that had a tremendous season. From watching film, we knew we needed to put together a great 40 minutes. I thought that we had some new players stepping up into big roles in this game. We did a good defensively and we shared the ball well."
The Jumbos (26-2, 9-1 in NESCAC) will take on Husson (23-4, 16-2 in NAC) in second-round action on the national stage on Saturday at 5 p.m in Cousens Gym. The Eagles, who have won back-to-back North Atlantic Conference titles, outlasted DeSales (20-8, 11-3 in MAC Freedom), 74-72, during a come-from-behind victory in first-round action on Friday. The Monks (24-5, 15-1 in GNAC) see their season come to an end, as the 2016-17 team qualified for a second consecutive NCAA Tournament and hoisted the Great Northeast Athletic Conference title for the second straight season.
The Jumbos' jumped all over the visiting Monks from the opening whistle, taking a commanding 20-4 advantage at the end of the first frame. The Jumbos' shot 4-for-7 on the three-ball in the opening 10 minutes, and received an early seven-point effort from junior forward Melissa Baptista. Knapp drilled a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the first, which gave the Jumbos the 16-point cushion.
The Jumbos have a great deal of strong 3-point shooters and the squad displayed that talent on Friday, as junior forward Jennie Mucciarone (11 points, six rebounds) went 3-for-4 from downtown, Knapp went 3-for-5, and senior captain and guard Josie Lee went 2-for-3.
"That is huge for us every game because it opens up the outside and that allows us to get the ball inside," Mucciarone said. "They come flying at us and we can drive by so that is always important for us and it was great to see. We hit 10 tonight from a lot of different people so that was awesome. We want to be more consistent with that moving forward."
Baptista chipped in with a 13-point performance for the Jumbos, and senior captain Michela North, who became the first Jumbo to reach a 1,000 career rebounds during a victory over Bowdoin in the semifinals of the NESCAC Tournament on Feb. 25, posted a game-high nine boards.
The Monks were led by a 17-point effort by sophomore guard Kelsi McNamara, while sophomore forward Hannah Marks (8-for-10 from the free-throw line) finished with 11 points.
The Jumbos kept rolling in the second quarter, taking a 30-6 advantage on a trey by Mucciarone off a nice pass by Baptista with 6:54 on the clock. North sent the hosts into intermission with a comfortable 23-point cushion, as she converted a layup off a feed by Knapp with 2:19 remaining, giving the Jumbos a 35-12 advantage.
The Monks regrouped at halftime and came out with a great deal of energy in the third, as McNamara drilled a 3-pointer with 3:28 left, trimming the Jumbos' lead to 42-25. The Monks' shaved the deficit down to 43-27 on a pair of free throws by Marks with 2:18 left in the third, but the Jumbos' put their foot down and extended their lead to 29 points on three occasions in the final frame.
"We have to take each game one at a time, and keep surviving and advancing," Knapp said. "We cannot look too far ahead. We have to make sure we are ready for each team that we face and try to do the best we can."
The Jumbos, who have reached the NCAA Tournament in six consecutive seasons and nine of the last 10, received a strong turnout from its loyal fans, as Berube and her team are grateful for the support from the Tufts community.
"Another great turnout here," Berube said. "The faithful Cousens' fans were here and loud. I know we play better when the crowd is into it and it is awesome to have the community. We know a lot of the student-athletes were there, the staff and faculty and of course our families. It is a fun atmosphere."
Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern