Nov. 13—LEWISTON — Bates College opened the women’s basketball season with a big nonconference matchup against NESCAC foe Tufts University.
Both teams were seeking an early season challenge, and the nationally ranked Jumbos earned an impressive season-opening victory, defeating the defending conference champion Bobcats 79-55 at Alumni Gym.
“We just talked about it (in the locker room), we always want to play against the best, and that obviously demands you to be your best every game,” Bates coach Alison Montgomery said. “I believe playing in a game like this really prepares us for the season.”
Tufts (1-0) is the 11th-ranked team in the D3hoops.com preseason Top 25 poll. Bates (0-1) is unranked but received 25 votes in the poll. The Bobcats are coming off conference championship and a second-round appearance in the 2022 NCAA Division III Tournament.
“It was a huge test, and Bates is a phenomenal team — we have so much respect for them,” Tufts coach Jill Pace said. “This is a really fun place to play with a great crowd, especially for women’s Division III basketball.”
Junior Maggie Russell led the way for Tufts (1-0) with 30 points, and Sarah Crossett chipped in 16 points.
“Maggie is phenomenal. She does a lot, she rebounds and she defends really well and she can defend at all positions,” Price said. “I think she had a really nice game.”
Russell finished with a double-double by grabbing 17 rebounds in the game.
Senior Meghan Graff of South Portland led Bates (0-1) with 15 points and Sophie Spolter added 11 points. Graff is a D3hoops.com preseason All-American.
Tufts opened the game with a 5-0 run before Bates went on a 7-2 run to tie the game. Russell was a force, driving the lane and recording eight points in the first quarter, after which the Jumbos led 19-14.
“I think after that first quarter, a lot of different players stepped up for us and we were able to take it from there,” Price said.
The Bobcats shot 6-for-20 from the floor in the opening period. Morgan Kennedy had five points, while Graff and Kayla Bridgeman each had four points.
The difference in the first quarter was at the free throw line, where Tufts went 5-for-6 and Bates went 1-for-2.
“When we were competing in that game before it got away from us, our rebounding kept us in it,” Montgomery said. “We did not shoot the ball well at all. That had a huge impact on this game.”
Bates went 20-for-68 from the field and Tufts was 28-for-70.
The Jumbos built their lead up to 35-19 in the second quarter with a 16-5 run that was highlighted by back-to-back 3s from Annika Decker and Russell.
“I think 3-pointers are game-changers on the offensive end,” Price said. “When you are able to hit back-to-back, it amps up the energy a bit.”
Russell led all Jumbos players with four 3s in the game. Tufts was 8-for-31 from behind the arc, while Bates went 1-for-16.
The Bobcats chipped away at the deficit later in the second quarter, with Graff scoring seven points in the quarter and Bridgeman adding four.
Bates cut the deficit to 39-31 before halftime when Sophia Spolter was fouled while in the act of shooting, and making, a two-point basket, and then she hit the foul shot.
Both teams struggled for the first five minutes of the third quarter.
“The score didn’t move for a bit, we got some stops, but we weren’t able to score,” Montgomery said.
Then Tufts started to add to its advantage. Russell made two 3s, which stretched the lead to 51-35. Later, Callie O’Brien’s 3-pointer pulled the Jumbos ahead 54-37.
Spolter ended the third quarter with a jumper that cut Tufts’ lead to 58-43.
Tufts pulled away in the final quarter, outscoring Bates 22-10.