Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – The Tufts men's basketball earned a hard fought, 84-81, victory over Salem State in a NCAA Tournament First Round game at St. John Fisher on Friday evening. Five different players scored in double digits and the Jumbos got 36 points off the bench to contribute to a total team win.
With the win the Jumbos are now 21-6 this year, and will await the winner of the St. John Fisher and St. Lawrence game. The Jumbos and the winner of that game will play on Saturday at 7 pm with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. The Vikings see their season come to an end with a 17-11 record.
The Jumbos and the Vikings both came out of the gates battling and things were close for most of the first half. With the game locked at 17 with 10:39 left in the first half the Vikings got two from Marcus Faison to take a 19-17 lead. The Vikings held on to that lead for a bit, and they were up 24-18 with 6:42 left in the half. But, the Jumbos scored 15 unanswered points to take a 33-24 lead with 2:53 left in the half. The Vikings were able to answer a bit, but the Jumbos took the 40-35 lead into the break.
The two teams traded baskets to open the second half, and just about three minutes into the half junior Ben Engvall sunk a three and senior tri-captain Tom Paslleschi added two of his own for the Jumbos to give them the 49-42 lead. The Vikings then got a layup from Faison, followed by the same from Tyreik McCauley, and then another two from Faison brought them within one, 49-48, with 13:39 left in the half.
Shyheim Davis-Smith pulled down an offensive rebound and made a layup to help give the Vikings their first lead of the second half, 54-53, with 11:32 left in the game. But, the Jumbos countered with a three from sophomore Ethan Feldman to take the lead back. Shortly after freshman Eric Savage drove to the basket and drew the foul, making both free throws to give the Jumbos a four-point lead, 58-54, with about 10:30 remaining in the half.
The Vikings tied it up at 62 but senior tri-captain Tom Palleschi drew a foul under the basketball and made both of his free throws to give the Jumbos the 64-62 lead with 8:22 left. The two teams traded points, but junior Vincent Pace made back-to-back buckets to give the Jumbos the four point lead 68-64 with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
Two from Faison with just over five minutes left in the game tied the game at 72, but Savage answered with a layup on the other end to take the lead back again for the Jumbos. On the Vikings end, Drew Healy missed both free throws at the line, but Faison got the offensive rebound on the second one and tied it at 74 with two more points with 4:26 left in the game.
With 4:05 left in the game, Pace made two free throws to take the 76-74 lead. The Vikings missed a shot on their end, but then Savage picked up an offensive foul and the Vikings answered with two from Murray to tie the game at 76 just under three minutes to go. Savage made both of a 1-and-1 at the line to give the Jumbos the 78-76 lead with 2:58 left.
The Jumbos defense caused a Vikings turnover, and Pace finished the play with a layup to give the Jumbos the 80-76 lead with 2:13 left in the game. Santos drew a foul and went to the line for the Vikings, but he missed both and the Jumbos pulled down the rebound. The Jumbos had the ball and a four-point lead with just about two minutes left in the game.
On the Jumbos end, the Vikings fouled Feldman, and he made both free throws to give the Jumbos the 82-76 lead with 1:54 left in the game. Faison answered with a three on the Vikings end of the court to break up the Jumbos 6-0 streak and bring the Vikings within three, 82-79, with 1:38 left in the game.
After a miss from Pace, the Vikings got two points from Sean Bryan to come within one, 82-81, with 44 seconds left in the game. The Jumbos turned the ball over on a ten second violation and the Vikings had the ball with 25 seconds left in the game. A Viking turnover gave the Jumbos the ball with three seconds left and Palleschi was fouled. He made both at the free throw line to give the Jumbos the 84-81 lead. The Vikings were unable to get off a shot to try and tie the game and the Jumbos picked up the 84-81 win.
Savage finished with a team-high 14 points off the bench for the Jumbos, and he scored ten of those in the second half. Pace and Smith each finished with 13 points, and Pace added a team-high eight rebounds while Smith added five rebounds and four assists. Palleschi added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks to the night for the Jumbos. Feldman tallied 11 points off the bench in the win.
For the Vikings, Faison finished with a game-high 30 points and 14 rebounds. Murray added 13 points and Davis-Smith added eight points and eight rebounds.
The Jumbos await the winner of the St. John Fisher and St. Lawrence game, with the second round game being played at St. John Fisher on Saturday evening at 7 pm.