BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College senior Kate Kerrigan scrambled along with her teammates, diving after every loose ball, taking body-breaking charges and joining scrums for every rebound Saturday.

“It was physical for sure,” Kerrigan said, “but it’s always great to get another NESCAC win.”

This wasn’t just another conference victory. Bowdoin, ranked No. 7 in one national poll, beat fourth-ranked Tufts 66-53 at Morrell Gymnasium.

It was Bowdoin’s first regular-season conference win over the Jumbos in seven years, and improved the Polar Bears to 13-0 overall, 2-0 in NESCAC. Tufts dropped to 11-2, 1-1.

Bowdoin, once the dominant team in NESCAC, remains a contender but hasn’t won the conference championship since 2009. Since then, Amherst was won six titles and Tufts two.

Tufts has been an NCAA Division III Final Four team the past four years, reaching the title game the past two.

So yes, beating Tufts was a big deal.

“This game was hyped up. I know (the players) will deny it but it’s a huge win for us,” said senior guard Lauren Petit, who led all scorers with 20 points, adding seven rebounds.

Kerrigan scored 13 points and although she’s a 5-foot-7 guard, led all rebounders with 11.

“You just had to go up and rip it down,” Kerrigan said. “It’s all about boxing out and making sure you came down strong with that ball.”

Strength was key. These two teams, with tight man-to-man defenses, were physical. There were 16 fouls called in the first quarter alone, 49 in all (27 against Tufts).

Foul trouble hampered the Jumbos, especially with 6-foot all-conference forward Melissa Baptista fouling out. She played only 10 minutes, recording two rebounds and zero points. Other Tufts players also sat often because of fouls.

“We had three of our starters on the bench for quite a while,” Tufts Coach Carla Berube sad. “It was a battle from start to finish. I thought our bench did a good job picking up the slack.

“But with (Baptista) playing the amount of minutes she did, it’s going to be tough beating a team like Bowdoin.”

Forward Erica DeCandido led the Jumbos with 16 points.

Baptista picked up two quick fouls, defending drives by Petit and Kerrigan.

“We wanted to drive to the hole and draw fouls,” Petit said.

When Bowdoin subbed in 6-2 center Cordelia Stewart, Baptista fouled her twice (early in the second quarter, and then four minutes into the second half).

“We wanted to go right at (Baptista) and (Tufts) didn’t have anyone to contend with Cordelia’s length,” Bowdoin Coach Adrienne Shibles said. “Cordelia really had some nice moments for us that made a huge difference in the outcome.”

Stewart, a junior from Bangor, finished with eight points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.

Shibles used 11 players, keeping her team fresh in the physical game. Sophomore Maddie Hasson of South Portland had five rebounds, with three points.

“They’re a really tough team,” Hasson said. “We came in with a mindset that we had to be strong.”

Bowdoin shot 33 percent to Tufts’ 30 percent.

“They’re a lock-down defensive team so we had to step up our defense,” Petit said.

“We had to knock down the shots that were open because we knew we wouldn’t get many open looks.”

Tufts pressured Bowdoin into 23 turnovers (to 16 by the Jumbos), but the Polar Bears held a 49-38 advantage on the boards.

Tufts scored first. Bowdoin scored the next nine points and never trailed again. Tufts stayed close, and was behind 41-38 near the end of the third quarter, but Petit finished the quarter with four points – two free throws after a drive, and a lay-up on Stewart’s assist.

Tufts closed to 49-44 with 6:47 left in the game, but Bowdoin enjoyed a 10-0 run to pull away.

“Obviously, it means so much,” Shibles said. “To see our seniors step up … they really want the top seed in the NESCAC tournament.”

The top seed would have home court advantage in the tournament, something Bowdoin hasn’t had since 2009.

The Polar Bears still have eight league games remaining, including a Jan. 27 date at Amherst (13-0, 1-0), the defending national champion and the top-ranked team in both national polls.

NOTES: Bowdoin is ranked No. 7 in the USA Today coaches poll, which hasn’t been updated since Dec. 20. The Polar Bears are No. 11 in the d3hoops.com poll, which came out last week. Tufts is No. 4 in the d3hoops.com poll and No. 2 in the coaches’ poll. The Jumbos lost for the first time, an upset by Albright, on Dec. 29. … The Polar Bears next play Tuesday at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.