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Amherst (21-0) to host Tufts (22-0) in women’s basketball

Carla Berube ran her first practice session Nov. 1. Two weeks later, tapping off at the Skidmore Invitational, the Tufts women’s basketball squad shut down the hosts, 50-30.

Foes have failed to reach 40 points against Tufts eight other times since, the Jumbos’ in-your-face ball pressure serving as the foundation for a 22-0 start entering Saturday afternoon’s NESCAC showdown at fellow unbeaten Amherst (21-0).

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Tufts is ranked fifth in Division 3 — one place behind Amherst.

Berube stressed making stops from Day 1 and her players have bought in. As a result, Tufts leads the nation in scoring defense (42.5 points per game).

“They love it, and they get after it,” said Berube, who is 209-72 in her 11 seasons on the Tufts bench. “Ball pressure is really important.”

The Jumbos attempt to force three to five shot-clock violations per game.

“[We] always try to have our offense fueled off of our defense, and forcing turnovers,” said senior captain Bre Dufault, who likely will spend part of the afternoon defending her best friend since third grade, Amherst captain Bridget Crowley, a fellow Minnechaug Regional graduate.

Amherst has won a staggering 76 straight games at LeFrak Gymnasium and owns a 39-game winning streak against NESCAC foes, including a pair of wins over Tufts last season.

“Every game is important, but to have two teams this far along in the season undefeated, it’s really remarkable,” said G.P. Gromacki, Amherst’s sixth-year coach.

Amherst has a stellar sophomore in Megan Robertson, a 6-foot-2-inch forward from Tewksbury who leads the team in rebounding (9.2) and blocked shots (2.9) while averaging 12.0 points per game. But senior guard Marcia Voigt is “their go-to player,” according to Berube. She leads the team at 13.0 points per game.

Tufts is led offensively by sophomore guard Hannah Foley of Acton, who is averaging a team-high 12.0 points per game, while connecting on 38.5 percent of her shots from beyond the arc.

The Jumbos’ 22-0 start is “sort of the elephant in the room,” conceded Berube, “but the players are mature, they understand that it is one game at a time. One game is not going to hurt our season.”

Craig Larson can be reached at clarson@globe.com.
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