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January 6, 2012

Tufts tops men's basketball 80-71 in NESCAC opener

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Tufts men's basketball topped national No. 7 Williams 80-71 tonight to end the Ephs' streak of 18-consecutive regular-season NESCAC wins. Williams' loss also ends a 10-game winning streak for the Ephs. Tufts improved to 8-3 on the season, while Williams fell to 11-2.

Ben Ferris and Scott Anderson led the way for Tufts, with 23 and 19 points, respectively. Anderson also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds. C.J. Moss joined the pair in double digits with 10 points.

Michael Mayer led Williams with 20 points, while Hayden Rooke-Ley and James Wang managed 13 points and 11 points, respectively.

Tufts held Williams, which was averaging 10 threes per game on 44 percent shooting ahead of tonight's showdown, to 2-18 shooting from behind the arc and 43.6 shooting overall from the field.

Tufts jumped out to a 9-2 lead 3:44 into the game behind six second chance points. However, Mayer, who checked on when Tufts scored their ninth point from the line, quickly helped even up the game, scoring six of the Ephs' next seven points on in less than two minutes to make the score 9-9. Tufts responded with an 8-2 run that made the score 17-11 with 10:50 to play in the half, but Williams climbed right back into the game with a five unanswered points to make the score 17-16 with 8:32 to play on two more free throws from Mayer.

Tufts stretched its lead to five, 25-20, with 4:29 to play, before Williams went on a run to take its first lead of the half. Three free throws made the score 25-23, before a spinning layup from Rooke-Ley in the lane tied up the game with 3:28 remaining in the half. Another layup from Mayer off a pick-and-roll from Robertson gave the Ephs a 27-25 lead with 3:06 to play. Tufts was able to respond to the Ephs' newfound momentum, tying the game on two Anderson free throws and eventually taking a 32-31 lead into the half.

Tufts clamped down on the Ephs' shooters throughout the half, keeping the Ephs' field goal percentage in the thirties for most of the half before Williams' 11-point flurry to close the half. The Jumbos shot 44 percent (12-27) from the field, while the Ephs hit 42 percent (10-24) of their shots. The Ephs also went 0-6 from three in the half

Mayer spearheaded Williams' offense in the first, pouring in 16 points on 6-8 shooting from the field and 4-5 shooting from the line. Anderson led the way for Tufts, scoring nine points on 3-9 shooting and 3-4 shooting from the line. Mayer and Anderson also led their teams in rebounds in the first twenty minutes, pulling in five and seven, respectively.

Kwame Firempong and Anderson started the half off strong for the Jumbos, as Anderson hit two driving lay-ups sandwiched by two jumpers by Firempong that gave the Jumbos a 40-33 three minutes into the half. The Ephs scored four straight points in response, but the Jumbos responded in turn, stretching their lead to nine, 46-37, with 14:29 to play in the half.

From there, Tufts slowly stretched its lead, going up by as much as 18 after consecutive threes from Ferris made the score 65-47 with 8:29 to play. The Ephs attempted to claw their way back into the game, and free throws from Rooke-Ley cut the lead to eight, 68-60, with 3:49 to play in the game. The Jumbos proved up to the task, however, as the Ephs were unable to make it a two-possession game as the clock wound down, and the Jumbos hit their free throws to walk away with the 80-71 victory.

Led by Ferris, Tufts' offense scorched the Ephs in the second half. The Jumbos shot 63.6 percent from the floor in the second 20 minutes, and Ferris scored 19 of his 23 points in the half.

"Tufts was tougher, hungrier, and more competitive for 40 minutes," Williams head coach Mike Maker said. "Give them a lot of credit – they have quickness on the perimeter and toughness on the interior. Having said that, I am really proud of how we responded when we were down ... 18 in the second half. We kept playing to the final horn. We need 40 minutes of that, not [whatever] it was. Hopefully we can learn from this game and play the kind of basketball that I know we can play.

"We are the hunted right now, and I tried to explain it to our guys in the locker room," Maker added. "We were the hunted when I got here, and now we are the hunted because of what we got in the past ... Truthfully, we got what we deserverd what we got, and we have to hope we learn from today."

Williams will prepare to take on Bates tomorrow at home at 4 p.m., while Tufts faces Middlebury tomorrow on the road, also at 4 p.m.

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