Amherst Defeats Tufts in Key NESCAC Matchup, 54-48

Sophomore Courtney Long had 10 points in only 19 minutes of action.
AMHERST, MA – The 9th-ranked Amherst College women’s basketball team played host to No. 15 Tufts University this afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium in a re-match of the 2008 NESCAC Championship. The Lord Jeffs won last year’s title game for the program’s first crown, and defeated the Jumbos once again today with a 54-48 result.

Last season, these two teams met twice, with Amherst winning both of the games. The Jeffs won the regular season meeting by two points on a buzzer-beater, before winning the conference title by six.

After Tufts scored the game’s opening bucket, Amherst sophomores Sarah Leyman (Cincinnati, OH) and Courtney Long (Norwich, CT) scored seven straight points to open up a 7-2 lead less than three minutes into the game. Leyman scored again after a Tufts timeout, but Colleen Hart and Julia Bailey answered for the Jumbos with back-to-back buckets.

Tufts closed the gap to 9-8, before taking the lead on a Bailey transition lay-up. With the game tied 10-10, Amherst first-year Caroline Stedman (Walpole, MA) made a spectacular steal, tipping the ball up, then over a Jumbo defender to spark a breakaway. Stedman missed the contested lay-up on the break, before senior Stacy Brossy (Lukachukai, AZ) hit a jumper to put Amherst back on top.

With 6:51 to play, Amherst rookie Lem Atanga McCormick (Chicago, IL) found classmate Shannon Finucane (Cortland, NY) streaking to the hoop for a score. Tufts re-gained the lead 17-16 when Vanessa Miller freed herself for an easy jumper. Amherst leading-scorer Jaci Daigneault (Guilford, CT) made a three from the top of the key with less than four minutes to play, putting the Lord Jeffs back up 19-17.

A Katie Moynihan put-back briefly gave the Jumbos the lead, before Daigneault finished inside to put the Jeffs up 22-21. Katie Tausanovitch scored what would be the final bucket of the half, sending Tufts to the locker room up 23-22. At the break, Leyman and Daigneault each had six points for Amherst, while combining for 10 rebounds. Tausanovitch led the Jumbos with six points and four boards.

Amherst started the second half with a 5-0 run, before Casey Sullivan scored Tufts’ first points of the frame. Bailey scored with 15:33 to play in the second half, tying the game at 29-29. After a jumper from Amherst’s Long, Colleen Hart mad an impressive step-back three to put Tufts ahead 32-31. Long hit a three from the left corner after a Leyman offensive rebound, putting Amherst back up 36-32.

Sophomore Jaci Daigneault recorded a double-double for the third time in as many games.
Coming out of a timeout, first-year Kim Fiorentino (Holmdel, NJ) found Atanga McCormick with a long lob to a score. Two possessions later, Leyman drew a hack from Tausanovitch, sending the Tufts center to the bench with four fouls and over 10 minutes to play.

Senior co-captain Amanda Otieno (Gloucester, MA) grabbed an offensive board for a score, putting Amherst up 44-35 with 9:19 to go in the second half. With 5:09 to play, Amherst called a timeout to avoid a five-second call on an inbound play, still clinging to a 48-42 lead.

Amherst’s lead opened up to 52-44 on a free throw by Daigneault with 2:49 to play, and the Jeffs held nearly the same lead with just 1:29 to play as Daigneault went to the charity stripe again. She knocked down one-of-two, putting Amherst up 53-45.

The Lord Jeffs held on for a crucial defensive stand, but came up empty handed on their next trip down court. Sullivan drained a three for Tufts with 21 seconds to play, cutting the margin to 53-48. Finucane broke free on the ensuing inbound, and was fouled to set-up a 1-for-2 trip to the line. Only a missed desperation three from Tufts stood between Amherst and a 54-48 win.  

At the close of the game, Daigneault posted her third straight double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Leyman and Long combined for 23 and nine. Sullivan was the only Jumbo to reach double-digits in scoring with 10 points and six boards.

Amherst improves to 6-1 in the NESCAC and 21-1 overall, while Tufts drops to 17-3 (6-2). The Jeffs will have the full week off before hosting Williams Friday night at 5:30 p.m.