Nelsen Named To All-Tournament Team As Beavers' Rally Comes Up Just Short In Big 4 Challenge Title Game
SALEM, Mass.—Despite rallying from a 16-point halftime deficit, 11th-ranked Babson College's bid to win a third consecutive New England Big 4 Challenge championship came up just short as senior Ryan Spadaford (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) drained a three-pointer at the buzzer to lift Tufts University an 83-80 overtime victory on Sunday afternoon at Twohig Gymnasium.
Babson, which has now suffered a pair of overtime losses this season, drops to 6-2, while Tufts (5-2) claimed its first Big 4 Challenge title since 2011.
Junior Isaiah Nelsen (North Andover, Mass.) finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while classmate Joey Flannery (Acton, Mass.) posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds to go along with five assists for the Beavers. Sophomore Nick Comenale (New York Mills, N.Y.) went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and scored a career-high 12 points. Classmate Bradley Jacks (Fort Washington, Md.) added 10 points and five rebounds, while junior Charlie Rice (Barnstable, Mass.) added nine points and five boards.
Sophomore Vincent Pace (Bridgewater, N.J.) led all scorers with 25 points for the Jumbos. Junior Tarik Smith (Bronx, N.Y.) added 19, while Spadaford finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Green and White raced out to a 10-2 lead, but went just 3-of-22 from the floor over the final 16 minutes of the first half and was down 40-24 at the break. Trailing 48-37 with 14:47 to go in the second half, the Beavers ripped off a 21-9 run to take their first lead since the early moments of the opening stanza. Comenale drained three treys and Nelsen added six points during the spurt, including a layup to make it 58-57 with 8:01 remaining.
Comenale connected on another three-pointer to put Babson up 62-60 at the 6:02 mark, and Rice followed a bucket by Flannery with a free throw to make it 68-62 with 3:44 left. Tufts got back within two, but three free throws from Jacks and Nelsen pushed the Beavers advantage back to 72-67 with 2:10 to go in the contest. The Jumbos made four straight free throws and then got a layup from Spadaford to go back in front 73-72 with 35 seconds left, but Nelsen made 1-of-2 at the line with 22 seconds remaining. Tufts committed a turnover on the final possession of regulation to push the game into overtime.
The Green and White led 78-76 with 2:37 to go in the extra session following a layup by Jacks, but sophomore Ben Engvall (Barrington, R.I.) knocked down a free throw and Smith completed a three-point play on the next possession to give the Jumbos an 80-78 lead with 42 seconds left. Flannery drained a pair of free throws to tie the game with 30 seconds remaining, but Smith attacked the hoop and kicked it out to Spadaford, who buried his only three-pointer of the game at the buzzer.
Babson shot 45 percent (27-of-60) from the floor and held a 45-42 edge on the glass. The Beavers went just 22-of-37 (59.5 percent) at the free throw line and gave up 17 second-chance points to Tufts.
Babson returns to action on Thursday when it hosts fifth-ranked Amherst at 7 p.m., while Tufts takes on Plymouth State on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
• Sunday's loss snapped the Beavers' five-game winning streak in the Big 4 Challenge going back to 2013.
• Babson is 2-2 this season in games decided by five points or less with both losses coming in overtime.
• With seven free throws on Sunday, Flannery passed Kevin Leip '70 for fourth place on the school's all-time list.
• The loss was the first for the Beavers in their last 24 games when an opponent shoots below 40 percent.