Exceptional 3-Point Shooting Propels No. 4 Women’s Basketball into Elite Eight of NCAA Tournament

Links: Tufts Press Conference / Scranton Press Conference / Bracket

ST. LOUIS – Sophomore guard Jac Knapp dropped a career-high 20 points and senior captain Michela North collected her 42nd career double-double, as the No. 4 Tufts University women's basketball team defeated No. 13/17 Scranton, 65-48, in Sweet 16 action of the 2017 NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday evening at the Washington University Field House in St. Louis. 

Lauren Dillon tied the Jumbos' program record for single-season steals.

The Jumbos (28-2, 9-1 in NESCAC) advance to their fourth consecutive Elite Eight, as the squad will square off against No. 6 Washington University in St. Louis (26-2) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Royals (26-4) see their season come to a conclusion at the hands of Tufts for the second consecutive season, as the Jumbos defeated Scranton during the Elite Eight in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. 

The Jumbos, who posted a wire-to-wire victory on Friday, erupted from 3-point range in a do-or-die game, going 11-for-25 from downtown (44.0 percent), with Knapp (5-for-8) and junior forward Melissa Baptista (3-for-6) running the show. Junior guard Jennie Mucciarone (eight points) hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers late in the third quarter, as the Royals were trying to make a push. 

North totaled 11 points and 11 boards, while Baptista finished with 13 points and two blocks. Senior captain Josie Lee and freshman guard/forward Erica DeCandido combined for 11 assists, as the Jumbos shot 45.5 percent from the floor (25-for-55). Junior captain and point guard Lauren Dillon totaled four of her five steals in the first half to set the tone. The Wellesley, Massachusetts, native now has 87 steals, which is tied for the most in a single season in program history with Lisa Raffin (1980-81).

Sophomore guard Bridgette Mann went 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range, totaling a team-high 15 points for the Royals, to go along with four boards and three assists. Senior forward Alexix Roman finished with 12 points and seven boards, while senior forward Sarah Payonk contributed with six points and a team-leading eight rebounds. 

Baptista wasted no time getting acclimated to the court in St. Louis, cashing in on a 3-pointer from the top of the circle 11 seconds into the game, and then she drilled another trey from the left baseline, giving the Jumbos an early 6-0 lead with 8:57 left in the first. 

Mucciarone, who has stepped up her game in the NCAA Tournament, buried a mid-range jumper from left of the paint with 2:10 left, catapulting the Jumbos to a 20-8 cushion. Mann, who buried a team-high 62 3-pointers this season for the Royals, found the range from the top the arc with 40 seconds on the clock, cutting the Jumbos' lead to 20-13. 

Knapp drilled a left-wing three with 15 seconds remaining off a pass by Baptista from the paint. Knapp has scored double figures in all three NCAA games, averaging 17.0 points during that span. 

The Royals, who shot 40.0 percent from the floor (16-for-40) and 27.3 percent from downtown (3-for-11), chipped away early in the second, shaving the deficit to eight points on three occasions, as a layup by senior forward Denise Rizzo with 6:02 left trimmed the deficit to 29-21. 

The Jumbos, who have held 27 of 30 opponents under 50 points this season, played lockdown defense during the final 6:02 of the first half, allowing only three points during that timeframe to a Scranton team that averaged 69.8 points per game this season. 

The Jumbos hit the scoreboard for an additional 10 points in the final 4:03 of the half. Knapp lit it up again from beyond the arc with 2:26 left, and then senior forward Katy Hicks buried a long jumper with 1:11 left, giving the Jumbos a 39-22 advantage, as the squad took a 39-24 lead into intermission.

Throughout the third quarter, the Royals kept inching a little bit closer, but every time they made a push, the Jumbos answered. Scranton won the frame, 15-13, and freshman guard Lily Warhaftig brought the Royals to within 46-35 with 1:10 left, as she made a layup off a highlight-reel crossover at the 3-point line.

Mucciarone responded with back-to-back, right-wing 3-pointers, and then Mann drilled a buzzer-beating, half-court shot for the Royals, as the Jumbos took a 52-39 lead into the fourth. The Royals were not able to get any closer in the fourth, as the Jumbos closed out the game by winning the final period, 13-9. 

Written by Trevor Wenners, Athletic Communications Intern

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