|Senior co-captain Vincent Pace is NESCAC's #2 scorer|
MEDFORD - In a NESCAC season filled with parity, that record secured the six seed in the conference tournament for the Jumbos. The five teams ahead of them in the conference standings all have a 7-3 record in NESCAC games.MEDFORD, Mass. – With a win over Trinity (Conn.) in the final game of the season, the Tufts University men's basketball team finished out the regular season at 17-7 and with a 6-4 mark in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
The squad will be traveling to Hamilton College, the third seed, for their quarterfinal matchup. The Continentals finished the season an impressive 21-3, but all three of their losses came in NESCAC games to give them a 7-3 conference record. The game will be Saturday at 3 p.m.
"We are going into the playoffs with high expectations," head coach Bob Sheldon said. "We feel we did not play well against Hamilton [earlier this season] and are happy we have a chance to play them again."
All-time in the NESCAC tournament, Tufts is 7-13 and has advanced to one championship game. Hamilton is 0-3 and never appeared in a championship final. The Jumbos faced the Continentals in last year's quarterfinals when Tufts was the top seed in the tournament. Hamilton came to Cousens Gym and lost to the Jumbos, 81-63. Tufts then fell to Williams in the semifinals. The Jumbos' one appearance in the championship game came back in 2006 when they took Amherst to overtime before losing.
This season, Tufts' leading scorer has been senior Vincent Pace at 18.2 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounds at 8.2, while also registering 2.7 assists per game. Pace was named NESCAC Player of the Week on Dec. 11 after averaging 21.5 points on the week. He had a season-high 30 points in a 71-67 win over Emerson that week. In the final minutes of the game, Pace hit a game-tying three and then got the go-ahead layup as well. He joined the 1,000-point club back on Nov. 21 against MIT and now sits at 10th all-time in Jumbo history with 1,373 career points.
Sophomore Eric Savage is one of two Jumbos, including senior Thomas Lapham, to start all 24 games on the year. He's producing 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He scored a career-high 27 points in the first game of the season in a win against Webster. Savage was 10-for-14 from the field and 5-for-6 from the beyond the arc on the game. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out five assists. He wsa named NESCAC Player of the Week on Nov. 20.
KJ Garrett missed the first half of the season with an injury, but has come back strong scoring 18 in his first game back in a two-point win over Pamona-Pitzer. He's averaging 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 11 games.
Senior Everett Dayton is fourth on the team with 8.4 points per game as he's shooting 45.6 percent from the field.
Pace and Savage lead the team in made three-pointers with 35 and 34 respectively.
Hamilton is led by sophomore Kena Gilmour's 17.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors on Jan. 2. Junior Michael Grassey leads the Continentals in rebounds with 7.0 per game and junior Tim Doyle dishes out the most assists with 3.4 per contest.
Grassey leads the team in three-pointers as he has sunk 44 this season at a rate of 41.1 percent. Junior Peter Hoffmann has shot an impressive 57.6 percent from the field, while starting all 24 games for Hamilton and averaging 23.1 minutes.
These two teams matched up two weeks ago when the Continentals came to Medford and got the better of the Jumbos, 74-57. Tufts was within one point in the third quarter after a three-pointer by Savage to get the score to 42-41, but then Hamilton went on a 9-0 run to pull away and eventually win it. Savage had a game-high 16, Pace had 12, and Lapham finished with 10. Doyle led the Continentals with 15 and Grassey grabbed 10 boards. Before this game, the Jumbos had won the last four matchups between the teams.
Coach Sheldon and the Jumbos will put everything they have into this quarterfinal contest with the hopes of advancing to the second weekend of the tournament.
"Our goal from day one this year was to win the NESCAC playoffs, and that goal is still obtainable," Sheldon said. "It will be tough, with the parity and the fact that almost any team in the playoffs can get hot and win it all. There is a little more pressure this year, due to the fact that we would like to go to the NCAAs and need to have a good showing in the playoffs to get a bid."
Written by Curtis Stoychoff, Athletic Communications Intern