After losing big to Amherst, the women’s basketball team rebounded nicely with a 72-59 NESCAC win against Bates (7-12, 0-5 NESCAC) on Friday, Jan. 31. The game was closely contested early on, with Bates leading 13-12 midway through the first half before Wes started to pull away. Captain Jenna Klaes ’14 put the Cards back up with a layin, and Jackie Browne ’16 drained a three-pointer at the 9:14 mark to give the Cardinals their biggest lead of the night up until that point, 17-13. Wesleyan never looked back.
Klaes led the offensive attack with a career-high 20 points. Dreisen Heath ’15 contributed from both sides of the ball, pouring in 13 points and swiping four steals, while Jess Cherenza ’15 paced the Cardinals with 10 rebounds.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Head Coach Kate Mullen of her team’s effort. “I’m proud of how they came back. I love how they competed against Amherst, but tonight, now that we’re back in NESCAC, we needed the win, and we went out and got it. And we did it the way we normally do, playing defense.”
The nail in the coffin for Bates came when Klaes drilled a three with 4:33 remaining in the second half to put the Cardinals up 65-55.
“It felt incredible,” Klaes said of the shot. “It was good to help the team out, and make sure to close Bates out, and make sure they couldn’t come back and get a run in.”
The undefeated Tufts Jumbos (18-0, 6-0 NESCAC) came stampeding into Silloway Gym the next day and came away with a well-earned 62-53 triumph over the Cardinals (12-7, 3-3 NESCAC). Prior to the game, Coach Mullen expressed the significance of the matchup with Tufts.
“We’re excited for Tufts,” she said. “Tufts will not be expecting how we are going to compete this year. They will remember us from a year ago. We’re older and more experienced. We’re going to give Tufts a game that they didn’t expect.”
Wearing their sleek black uniforms, the Cardinals delivered on Mullen’s promise, giving Tufts all they could handle for two halves, refusing to fade and keeping it close.
After falling into an early 10-0 hole, the Cardinals went on a 8-0 run of their own, only to see Tufts come back with a 6-0 run. At the 14:39 mark in the first half, the score was 16-8 Tufts. As was the case against Amherst, Wesleyan struggled to defend the three-pointer, allowing a season-worst 11. Despite this, the Cardinals hung tough and gritted their way to just a 30-27 deficit at halftime.
Ultimately, however, the Jumbos sharpshooting from beyond the arc proved to be too much for the Cards. Tufts opened up its largest lead of the night, 51-38, with 10:24 remaining in the second half and held on for the win.
Coach Mullen agreed that it was one of those games where you just have to tip your cap to Tufts.
“If you see some of the big shots, not just the threes, but a couple end of possession, they roll it in on the two,” she said. “They played with poise, and they played like they’ve been in these kind of tight game situations before,” Mullen said.
Despite the loss, Mullen was satisfied with Wesleyan’s level of intensity.
“I’m very proud of their efforts,” she said. “They never quit. I felt like every time Tufts tried to come and knock us down, we responded. And if one person slipped up, a teammate came through and elevated us back up again. If we play like this for the remainder of the NESCAC season, we’re going to be in great shape.”
Once again, the Cardinals offense was led by Klaes, who decided that 20 points the night before wasn’t enough, besting her previous career-high with 22 points.
“I think I’ve had confidence, and confidence in my team to know that they’ll get the boards if they work the ball,” Klaes said.
The senior captain showed confidence in her team regardless of the loss.
“We’re keeping our heads up,” she said. “We know that they [Tufts] are the number one team. They’re undefeated, so we just wanted to make sure we gave it a good game.”
Wesleyan will travel next to Hartford on Friday, Feb. 7 to take on Trinity.