Smith, Amherst women’s basketball teams prepare for D3 Sweet 16

  • Amherst College’s Dani Valdez goes to the hoop against SUNY-Poly last week at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst. The Mammoths will host Tufts in the NCAA Division 3 Sweet 16 on Friday night. AMHERST COLLEGE ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/10/2022 6:55:10 PM
Modified: 3/10/2022 6:54:37 PM

Back at last in the Sweet 16, the Smith and Amherst College women’s basketball teams will attempt to extend their seasons a bit further this weekend.

Both teams made it as far as the NCAA Division 3 third round in their brackets back in the 2020 tournament before COVID-19 sent everyone packing early (there was no tournament last year). If either team wins Friday night, they’ll advance to play in the quarterfinal round on Saturday.

Let’s start with the Pioneers (25-2), who are heading out to the Midwest where they’ll face host University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (25-4) on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

If Smith advances, it would face the winner of Baldwin/Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the quarters on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Mammoths (23-3) will stay in the comfy confines of LeFrak Gymnasium for the second consecutive week, hosting Tufts (22-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Amherst would go toe-to-toe with either Christopher Newport or Trinity (Texas) on Saturday in the quarterfinals, also at LeFrak.

Amherst and Tufts are plenty familiar with one another. The two teams have already faced off twice this season, both Amherst wins – the first in the regular season, a 62-53 win on the road, and the second in the NESCAC semifinals, where the Mammoths pulled off a 73-59 victory. 

Amherst has won its first two games in the NCAA tourney by 18 and eight points, respectively, toppling SUNY-Poly in the first round (60-42) and St. John Fisher in the second (56-48).

Not known for being an offensive powerhouse, the Mammoths displayed their lockdown defensive prowess, combined with balanced scoring on both occasions. They put together the kind of complete game that has stymied opponents all season. That style will be put to the test against Tufts, a team that averages 69.6 points per game next to Amherst’s 61.6; in comparison, the Mammoths have held their opponents to an average of just 48.4 PPG to the Jumbos 58.8.

Smith will head into its Sweet 16 matchup with some serious momentum. The Pioneers are riding high on a 10-game winning streak, during which they won the New England Women and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) title at home. That said, they’ve also played their last six games at home, and a trip to Wisconsin presents a different kind of challenge as they look to keep moving through the bracket. 

In both NCAA tourney games they’ve played so far, the Pioneers have relied on a second-half surge to pull away from their opponent. In their first win against Framingham St. (61-51), that came via a 19-4 burst in the first five minutes of the third quarter. In their victory over Brooklyn College (76-58), that came in the form of a fourth-quarter explosion. Holding just a three-point lead going into the last 10 minutes, the Pioneers outscored the Bulldogs 25-12 in the final frame. Certainly, Smith would prefer a more comfortable lead earlier in the game, but the Pioneers have shown they’re more than capable of unleashing an offensive run at any point to snatch control.


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