Morgan Morrison’s double-double sparks Smith College women’s basketball in 70-60 win over Tufts

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 01-23-2023 9:30 PM

NORTHAMPTON – The weather outside was frightful, but the basketball inside Ainsworth Gymnasium Monday evening was indeed delightful. 

Smith College extended its winning streak to 11 games thanks to a 70-60 win over Tufts. The Pioneers’ chemistry has only gotten stronger the more the team has played, and the club is trusting in its offensive and defensive identities.

“We really lock in on the teams that we're playing and how we have to guard them defensively,” Morgan Morrison said. “We know our offense is really strong, we have so many people that can go off and we lock in on the [defensive] end, we can really do some damage.”

Morrison picked up a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Jessie Ruffner had 16 points, seven boards and four assists, Westhampton’s Katelyn Pickunka had nine rebounds and Ally Yamada and Amelia Clairmont added 14 and 11 points, respectively. 

“We have such a balanced attack offensively, so for us, it's all about ball movement, finding matchups, playing inside out. Tonight, we were able to pound it inside, but we provided a lot of relief for inside players by extending our offense all the way up to the three and making some of those shots,” Smith head coach Lynn Hersey said. “It's really hard to guard when we have that balance.”

After a four-hour bus ride in the snow to get to Northampton, it took the Jumbos a bit to find their legs in the opening quarter. The Pioneers jumped out to a 5-0 start, though Tufts quickly tied it up with a pair of baskets. Clairmont hit back-to-back triples to make it 11-5 Smith and force a Tufts timeout to slow momentum. 

By the end of the first quarter, the Jumbos had crawled back to within range, with Smith leading 14-11. Tufts’ Annika Decker had seven of the team’s 11 points. Besides Clairmont’s threes, Morrison was lights out for the Pioneers in the first quarter, picking up six boards and five points. 

A triple from Yamada and a bucket from Ruffner opened the second quarter and forced another Tufts timeout down 19-11 with 7:18 remaining. The Pioneers outscored Tufts 10-0 before the Jumbos got on the board three and a half minutes into the quarter. 

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Yamada was dynamite off the bench, hitting the first three 3’s she took in the second quarter. Her nine points in the second frame and Morrison’s continued dominance in the paint paved the way for a 34-23 halftime advantage. 

“Morgan is confident, she's determined, she's hungry. She just plays with a mindset –  there's a physical piece to her game, but there's a mental edge she plays with,” Hersey said. “I think that she's getting a lot more confident understanding how doubles work, what her areas of attack are out of that. She's evolving in her passing game, which just makes her harder to double. And when players play well around her, it's a perfect combination for her.”

Both teams struggled to get their offenses going in the third quarter. Tufts didn’t get on the board for four and a half minutes while Smith’s only points came from three free throw shots until Clairmont hit a triple  with four minutes left in the quarter. Clairmont’s 3 sparked an 8-0 run for the Pioneers, and Smith went into the final frame up 46-32. Morrison picked up five rebounds in the third to secure the double-double. 

A pair of Tufts triples and a jumper pulled the Jumbos within seven points with seven minutes to go. Both teams traded baskets down the stretch, but the visitors were unable to stop Smith’s well-oiled offensive machine. Decker got the Jumbos within six with three and a half minutes to play, but that was as close as they got in the final frame.

Now 17-1 overall, the Pioneers will play Western Massachusetts foe Mount Holyoke College in their next game in South Hadley on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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