|Tarik Smith had a career-high 25 points to aid the Jumbos' win|
MEDFORD – Behind career-highs in points from senior tri-captain Stephen Haladyna and junior Tarik Smith the No. 20 Tufts men's basketball team blew past No. 12 Johnson and Wales, 101-85, in an NCAA Tournament Third Round game at Cousens Gym on Friday night. Haladyna finished with 30 points while Smith helped the Jumbos with 25 points in the win.
The Jumbos move to 23-6 on the year and advance to play Amherst on Saturday at 7 pm for a chance to move on to the Final Four. Amherst topped Babson, 88-76, in the first game on Friday night. With the loss Johnson and Wales sees their season come to an end with a 28-3 mark.
The Jumbos and the Wildcats traded the lead five times to open up play in Friday night's contest. Tom Garrick opened the game with a three to put the Wildcats on the board and Michael Kiser added a dunk. But two points from junior tri-captain Tom Palleschi and a three from Haladyna tied the game at five early.
Just over five minutes into the first half sophomore Ben Engvall's layup put the Jumbos ahead, 15-14, and Engvall added another just 21 seconds later to give the Jumbos the three-point lead. Over the next seven minutes the Jumbos would build to a 14-point lead with five different players scoring during that span, including four points from Palleschi and five from sophomore Everett Dayton. With 7:49 remaining in the first half the Jumbos were ahead, 34-20.
But, the Wildcats refused to give up, and with the Jumbos ahead 38-26 with 4:57 left in the first half, Johnson and Wales scored 11 unanswered points to get themselves back in the game, trailing by one, 38-37, with 2:34 left in the game. Haladyna turned in a layup to stop the streak and extend the Jumbos lead to three, but a Garrick layup and a dunk by Jarrell Lawson gave Johnson and Wales a one point lead with 1:36 remaining in the first half.
Senior tri-captain Ryan Spadaford made two free throws to give the Jumbos a one point advantage, but a Garrick layup put the score back in the Wildcats advantage. Smith drove to the basket and made a layup and drew the foul, sinking the free throw for the three point play to put the Jumbos up two, 45-43, with 34 seconds left in the half. Just 30 seconds later Smith added two more points to give the Jumbos the 47-43 advantage going into the half.
Coming out of the break the Jumbos and the Wildcats traded points during the first five minutes of play with the Jumbos hanging on to the lead but never leading my more than four. A little more than five minutes into the second half Haladyna hit a jumper to give the Jumbos a three-point lead, 57-54. Smith followed with a free throw, and Dayton added a layup to put the Jumbos up by six. Then rookie Ethan Feldman drained a three and the Jumbos were ahead by nine, 63-54, with 13:19 remaining in the half.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the game, the Jumbos would grow their lead to 15, and they would not lead by less than nine for the duration of the game. The Jumbos held on to a double-digit lead for the final six minutes of the game, leading by as many as 16. That would be the final margin as well, as Tufts secured a 101-85 win to advance to the Elite Eight.
Garrick finished with 30 points for the Wildcats, while Quarry Greenaway turned in a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Anthony Jernigan added 13 points and seven rebounds, and Robert Lewis helped with ten points and ten rebounds off the bench.
For the Jumbos, Haladyna's 30 points led the Jumbos. Smith finished with 25 points and nine assists. Palleschi was a monster under the basket, turning in 16 points and seven blocks. Dayton finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Jumbos.
The Jumbos will now face off with Amherst for the chance to head to Salem, Virginia for the Final Four. The Purple and White and the Jumbos split this season, with the Jumbos picking up a win when the two teams faced off in Medford in the regular season, and the Purple and White winning in the conference tournament held at Trinity. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm on Saturday evening.
Game Photos by Alonso Nichols / Tufts