Worcester, Mass. – The nation's No. 10 team – Tufts University – built a 25-point first half lead and then held off host Clark University's furious second half comeback to remain undefeated with a 65-53 win in non-league women's basketball action on Wednesday evening.
The Jumbos improve to 11-0 on the season, while the Cougars have now dropped back-to-back contests to teams from the NESCAC and now stand at 7-4.
As has been the case in most of their contests this season, Tufts came out strong defensively, holding Clark without a basket for the first six minutes of the game en route to building a 16-4 lead.
That lead ballooned to 20 at 27-7 following a 9-0 run over a four minute span later in the half that feature a three-pointer from Hannah Foley (Acton, Mass.), an inside hoop from Hayley Kanner (Scarsdale, N.Y.) and baskets from Bre Dufault (Hampden, Mass.) and Liz Moynihan (Storrs, Conn.).
After Emily Reilly (Marlboro, Mass.) split a pair of free throws, the Jumbos scored six straight – highlighted by a Foley finish – that sent their advantage to its peak at 33-8 with 3:30 remaining in the half.
Clark, meanwhile, struggle offensively the entire half, connecting on just 5-for-19 from the field and committing 14 turnovers and found themselves trailing 37-14 at halftime.
Things changed dramatically in the final 20 minutes, however, as Brooke Brennan (Weston, Mass.) drained back-to-back three-pointers to bring the lead inside of 20 points less than two minutes into the frame.
Tufts answered back and pushed their lead to as many as 24 at 54-30 midway through the stanza before the Cougars made their comeback bid. A conventional three-point play by Reilly and another Reilly hoop on the inside was followed up by a pair of Megan Grondin (Cumberland, Maine) free throws that had Clark to within 17 with seven minutes left.
Moments later, an Ashleigh Condon (Hull, Mass.) triple, a Liz Brooks (Charlton, Mass.) free throw and another Condon score saw the Cougars as close as they had been since the opening possessions of the game at 57-47.
In the end, however, the Jumbos proved to be too much, as the visitors went 8-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 1:30 to secure the win.
Tufts controlled the glass, holding a 50-36 edge with 27 of their boards coming off of the offensive glass. They also forced 23 turnovers and held a 23-6 advantage in points off of turnovers.
After shooting 26 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, Clark shot much better in the last 20 – 54 percent – to finish at 42 percent for the contest. The Jumbos, meanwhile, connected on only 32 percent of their attempts, but because of their huge advantage on the offensive boards, they attempted nearly 30 more shots than the Cougars.
Foley and Kanner shot a combined 13-for-20 from the field and finished with 14 points each, while Dufault added 13 points and five boards.
Clark was paced by Reilly's 15 points and six rebounds, while Brennan scored all of her 11 points in the second half. Brooks, meanwhile, ended with a career-high ten points and eight rebounds.
The Cougars will return to action on Saturday when they travel to MIT for a 2:00 p.m. meeting with the Engineers.
Tufts, meanwhile, will entertain Williams on Friday night with tip-off slated for 8:00 p.m.