MEDFORD, Mass – The Williams College women's basketball team (9-6, 1-2 NESCAC) put up a strong effort against the 8th-ranked (per the D3Hoops.com poll) Tufts Jumbos (13-2, 2-1 NESCAC), but ultimately ended up falling 47-40 in an away NESCAC matchup on Friday night.
The Ephs came out strong against the defending national runners-up. Early on, Williams first-year players stepped up, as a Mikaela Topper layup with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter put the Ephs up 5-2, and a Maggie Meehan three-pointer extended this lead to 8-4 with 4:26 left. Tufts would go on a run to end the quarter, ultimately taking a 12-10 lead going into the second. Topper and Meehan scored all ten first quarter points for the Ephs.
Four straight points by Kristin Fechtelkotter to start the second put Williams up 14-12 with 8:17 remaining. Williams stayed ahead of the Jumbos, growing this lead to as many as six points on a Meehan layup with 2:38 remaining. At the end of a dominant second quarter in which the Ephs outscored the Jumbos 13-5, Williams led 23-17.
Williams head coach Pat Manning praised her team on the strong first half performance: "We had an incredible first half. Our energy was awesome."
The Ephs shot 40% (8 of 20) from the field in the first half, while the Jumbos shot just 20% (7 of 35). Meehan had nine first half points, and Fechtelkotter scored seven. Melissa Baptista led Tufts with six first half points.
In the second half, Tufts rallied right away. The Jumbos scored nine straight points to start the third quarter, taking a 26-23 lead on a Jac Knapp layup with 6:56 remaining. However, the Ephs were able to halt Tufts' momentum, as a layup by Topper tied the game right back up at 28 with 4:34 remaining. The two teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter, and Williams went into the game's final quarter trailing Tufts 33-32.
The Ephs regained the lead when a Gabby Martin layup put them up 34-33 just 14 seconds into the fourth quarter. After Tufts retook the lead, another layup by Martin tied the game up at 36 with 5:27 remaining. From this point on, however, the Jumbos pulled away from the Ephs. Two crucial three pointers by Knapp in the game's final minutes built the Jumbos' lead, and Williams ended up losing by seven.
Fechtelkotter led the Ephs with 12 points and Meehan scored 11. The Jumbos were led by Baptista with 15 points and ten rebounds, and Erica DeCandido with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Knapp also contributed for the Jumbos, scoring all 11 of her points in the second half, including the two big three pointers.
Williams shot 32.6% (14 of 43) from the field while Tufts shot 26.2% (17 of 65). The Ephs did seem to struggle in terms of ball control, as they turned the ball over 22 times on the night. In comparison, despite strong defensive pressure from Williams, Tufts committed just eight turnovers.
Despite the loss, Coach Manning spoke highly of her team's performance: "Tonight was very encouraging, and makes me very excited about the rest of the season moving forward." Particularly, Manning spoke of three of her first years, who played aggressively on both sides of the ball all night: "Three of our first years, Gabby Martin, Mikaela Topper, and Maggie Meehan really ran the show tonight. It was exciting to see that." The trio scored 26 of 40 points for the Ephs.
The Ephs have a quick turnaround, returning to action at 3 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, January 13th, at Bates. Tufts also returns to action tomorrow, hosting Middlebury at 3 p.m.