CLINTON, N.Y. – The eighth-seeded Tufts men's basketball team will travel to Hamilton College, where the New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) semifinal and championship games will be held this weekend. The Jumbos are set to face second-seeded Hamilton at Scott Field House on Saturday at 2 pm in a semifinal match.
Tufts (12-13) advanced to the semifinals after their 86-75 upset victory over the No. 1 seeded Middlebury Panthers last Saturday. The Jumbos were the first #8 seed to defeat the #1 seed in the 19-year NESCAC Tournament history.
"It was good for our young team to get this playoff victory," head coach Bob Sheldon, in his 31st season at the helm said. "It gives us confidence that when we put it all together, we can make some noise."
The Jumbos played one of their best all-around games against the Panthers and will look to carry that momentum into Saturday's game. Their defense held Middlebury to 38.7 percent from the field and defended the three-point line efficiently, holding the Panthers to 4-23 from behind the arc.
"Our defense has started playing well at the right time and did a great job on the road against a very good Middlebury team," Sheldon said. "When we defend at a high level, it makes us a tougher team to beat and gives us more opportunities on the offensive end."
Offensively, the Jumbos had four players in double-figures in the contest against Middlebury, while shooting 45.8 percent from the floor. Junior captain Eric Savage recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
"Savage has been playing great basketball and has provided great energy on both ends of the floor," said Sheldon.
Sophomores Brennan Morris and Justin Kouyoumdjian, and freshman Tyler Aronson each had double-digit outings as well on Saturday. That was an indication of Tufts' offense which puts up an average of 82.2 per game led by a balanced oattack.
"Having five guys that score in double-digits makes us a very tough team to prepare for," said Sheldon.
Savage leads the way with 15.7 per game and has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games. Sophomore center Luke Rogers has had a solid all-around season averaging nearly a double-double with 14.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Morris has been the Jumbos' marksman from beyond the three-point line with a team-high 56 threes on the year and a 13.7 scoring average. Kouyoumdjian and Aronson have provided sparks offensively with 10.1 and 10.0 points per contest respectively in the Jumbo backcourt.
The Jumbos have also seen freshman Carson Cohen grow as the season has progressed and he averages 8.2 points and 3.2 assists per game off the bench. Sophomore Will Brady and freshman Eric DeBrine have also played well this year and spread the floor with their ability to make three-pointers. Junior Patrick Racy and sophomore Max Oppenheim come into the game and mix it up in the paint on both ends of the floor.
Second-seeded Hamilton (22-3) enters the semifinals having won six of their last seven games, including victories over ranked opponents Amherst and Williams. The Continentals are ranked eighth in the D3hoops.com national poll and recorded a 93-88 quarterfinal win over the No. 7 seed Colby College to advance to face the Jumbos on Saturday.
Hamilton has a veteran roster whose top seven scorers are all upperclassmen and are the number one offense in the NESCAC, averaging 86.8 points per contetst. The Continental offense is led by junior Kena Gilmour, who nets 19.8 points per game and has a field goal percentage of 51.1. Gilmour has recorded double-digit points in 23 of their 25 games, including a season-high 32 points against Bard College. Seniors Peter Hoffmann and Michael Grassey also average in double-figures with 13.5 and 12.0 points per contest respectively.
Tufts and Hamilton met earlier this season, with the Continentals winning 87-83 at Scott Field House in a back and forth affair. The Jumbos held an 83-82 lead before Grassey netted three of his 12 points to give the Continentals the lead. Hoffmann netted a game-high 21 points on 8-13 shooting. The Jumbos' defense did a great job on Gilmour, as they held him to a season-low four points. Rogers led Tufts by recording a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Kouyoumdjian matched a season-high with 18 points and four three-pointers. Savage, Morris, and Cohen also scored in double-figures in the contest.
The Jumbos and Continentals have met in each of the past two postseasons with both teams winning a game. In the 2016-17 season, Tufts downed Hamilton 81-63 in the quarterfinal game. Last season, the Continentals edged the Jumbos 91-82 in the first round match. Tufts has eight career postseason wins to Hamilton's two.
The winner of Saturday's semifinal will face the winner of No. 3 Amherst and No. 4 Williams in Sunday's noon championship game.
Written By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello