Second-Half Surge Lifts TCNJ Past Tufts 57-55 in NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament
Courtesy Tufts Sports Information
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) women's basketball team erased a 12-point deficit in the second half to earn a 57-55 victory over Tufts University in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday night at Moravian College.
TCNJ (25-4) moves on to the NCAA "Sweet 16" next weekend, where they will face the University of Rochester at a site to be determined. Senior 6'3" center Hillary Klimowicz led the Lions over the Jumbos with 28 points. Tufts' season is over with a 22-5 record.
The Jumbos were in control of the game with a 44-33 lead following a three-point play by junior Julia Baily (Farmington, Conn.) with 9:22 remaining in the second half. Tufts had led by as many as 12 points, 41-29, on a three-pointer by first-year Rachel Figaro (Windham, N.H.) at 10:45. Eleven minutes into the second half, the Jumbos had only allowed the Lions eight points.
However, that changed quickly. TCNJ went on a 9-0 run from 8:23 to 5:14 to pull within two points (44-42) on a jumper by Klimowicz. The Jumbos missed six shots and turned the ball over three times during the Lions' run. Baily baskets kept Tufts ahead by a slim margin as the clock wound down under four minutes. Klimowicz then ran off six straight points as Tufts remained cold from the floor and TCNJ took a 51-48 advantage with 2:28 on the clock.
To make matters worse for Tufts, their own 6'3" senior center Katie Tausanovitch (Lyme, N.H.) had fouled out at 3:55. Baily followed with her fifth foul at 2:13. TCNJ's Hannah Tait added one free throw after Baily's final infraction for a 52-48 lead. Tufts fouls continued to haunt them. After a lay-up by senior Katie Puishys (Huntington Beach, Calif.) brought the margin down to 52-50 at 1:51, Tait went to the line at the other end and hit two for a 54-50 TCNJ lead at 1:27.
The Jumbos kept clawing, as Figaro's third three-pointer of the game (she had six all season entering the game) made it 54-53 with 40 seconds left. Klimowicz scored the last two of her game-high 28 points for TCNJ with 22 seconds left, giving them a 56-53 edge. Tufts sophomore Colleen Hart (Needham, Mass.) swished two free throws with six seconds left to get Tufts within 56-55. They fouled immediately, Tait hit one of two, but a last-second Tufts three-pointer was blocked by Klimowicz and the Lions won.
Klimowicz made 11 of 17 shots and six of eight free throws for her 28 points, almost half of TCNJ's total. No other Lion was in double figures. She also had a game-high four assists. Tait finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Baily led Tufts with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Hart had 12 points as the only other Jumbo in double figures. The Jumbos couldn't find their shooting rhythm for most of the night, finishing at 32.8 percent (20/61) from the floor. They were six for 25 from three-point land (24 percent).
Klimowicz had scored 16 of TCNJ's 25 points in the first half as the Lions led 25-23 at the break. Tufts didn't hit its first field goal until a jumper by junior Vanessa Miller (Cincinnati, Ohio) at 13:29 of the first half. However, they were able to keep it close as TCNJ wasn't much more effective.
Tufts took its first lead, 15-14, on a three-pointer by Figaro, but TCNJ scored the next five and were up 21-16 on Klimowicz's lay-up at 4:53. With another basket by Miller (team-high six first-half points), a three-pointer by senior co-captain Kim Moynihan (West Hartford, Conn.) and Baily's lay-up, Tufts tied it at 23-23 with 14 seconds until halftime. The Lions grabbed a 25-23 edge on a hoop by Nicole Diaz right before the horn.
After the Lions scored the first basket of the second half, Tufts tore off a 15-0 run that gave them a 38-27 advantage at 11:14. Eight points, including two threes, by Hart and five points from Baily fueled the run. Figaro soon after hit the three that gave Tufts its largest lead, but TCNJ made an impressive comeback to advance.