March 5, 2010

UNION, N.J. -- The Tufts University women's basketball team remained perfect in NCAA Tournament first-round games with a 71-59 victory against Muhlenberg College on Friday night at Kean University. The Jumbos, who have now won their NCAA opener three years in a row, will face the winner of tonight's Kean/Penn State Berks first-round game in the second round on Saturday night at 6 pm.

Tufts (21-5) was led by 26 points from junior guard Colleen Hart (Needham, MA), who made 10 of 19 shots in the game. Senior Julia Baily (Farmington, CT) made six of 10 shots and finished with 17 points, bringing her 14 points shy of 1,000 for her career. Sophomore Tiffany Kornegay (Carver, MA) posted 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Muhlenberg, whose season ended with a 21-6 record, was led by 20 points from junior Sheila Cook (Rockville Centre, NY). Sophomore Alexandra Chili (Rockville, MD) knocked down four of seven three-point attempts and finished with 18 points. Junior Kelly McKeon (Watertown, CT) had eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals.

The Jumbos did not trail in the game, jumping to an 18-3 advantage at the 13:09 mark behind nine early points by Baily. The Mules followed with an 11-5 stretch that cut the margin down to nine points at 23-14 with 8:33 on the clock. Cook and Chili had four points each to spur that run. However, Tufts answered with the next seven points, four by Kornegay, to gain a 16-point advantage (30-14) at 6:27. Tufts' ability to keep the Mules at bay would extend into the second half.

The Jumbos led 36-24 at intermission. Hart had 12 at the break for Tufts, while Cook scored 11 for Muhlenberg. The Jumbos started the half with hot shooting and finished at 45.2 percent (14/31). The Mules never got on track, finishing at eight for 33 (24.2 percent). Tufts took advantage of nine Mules turnovers, turning them into 10 points.

Muhlenberg immediately pulled within single-digits early in the second half after a basket by McKeon and a pair of free throws by junior Alexandra Berlin (Bethlehem, PA) made it 36-28. As they would do several times in the second half, Tufts was able to get big points when they needed them. A lay-up by sophomore Kate Barnosky (Huntington Station, NY) and a pair of free throws by Hart stopped the early run by the Mules and Tufts led 40-28.

The Mules kept coming, with Chili's three-pointer at 15:11 putting the margin back in single digits (44-37), where it would stay for most of the next eight minutes. Muhlenberg twice pulled within five points. Chili, who had 10 points in the second half, converted a lay-up to make the score 46-41 at 14:04. Consecutive lay-ups by Kornegay pushed the Tufts lead back to nine (50-41) at 12:24. Two free throws by McKeon had the Mules down 50-45 at the 11-minute mark, but this time Hart scored consecutive baskets and the Jumbo advantage was 54-45 at 9:46.

Chili's three-pointer at 8:43 made it a six-point game (54-48), the closest Muhlenberg would get for the remainder of the contest. A 10-1 Jumbo run, fueled by six points from Baily, gave Tufts a 15-point lead (64-49) with five minutes left. They were able to keep the margin in double digits and improve their record in NCAA Tournament games to 5-2.

Tufts held Muhlenberg to 29.9 percent shooting (20/67), the second-lowest mark against the Jumbos this season. The Jumbos finished at 44.6 percent (25/56). Muhlenberg won the battle of the boards, 45-38. Chili added seven rebounds to her fine scoring night.

The Jumbos improved to 5-0 at neutral sites this season. In addition to Baily nearing the 1,000 points career milestone, Tufts junior tri-captain Vanessa Miller (Cincinnati, OH) had three steals in the game to give her 84 for the season. She is three shy of the Tufts single-season record of 87 set by Lisa Raffin in 1980-81. Miller, a 5'2" guard, also blocked three shots to go with seven points, seven rebounds, and three assists tonight.