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Kim Benton gives her all and has fun doing it

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — whoopBEven though the Massachusetts women’s basketball team had a 13-point lead with less than three minutes to play against Quinnipiac on Sunday, Kim Benton was going all out.

The senior point guard was in full sprint after a loose ball and flopped onto the hardwood as she slid into the scorer’s table, knocking it from its position next to the court. The UMass coaching and training staffs were concerned as Benton peeled herself off of the court, but she wasn’t hurt. In fact, she was laughing uncontrollably at the scene as she jogged down the court.

“It’s just my personality,” Benton said about the play. “I’m very outgoing and I have a lot of energy so I bring it onto the court.”

Benton set a career high with eight rebounds in the first game of the weekend for the Minutewomen, and pulled down six in Sunday’s contest. She is currently fourth all-time in 3-pointers made in UMass history, but is also a key figure in the team’s chemistry.

“As a point guard I have to be a leader on the court,” Benton said. “I have to show my teammates that it has to be more fun and we can’t always be serious, so I go out there and show [the team] it can be fun and relaxed.”

As a senior, Benton is second on the team with 17 assists while averaging four points and three rebounds in eight starts this season, but concentrates on doing all of the small things as a leader of the Minutewomen.

“Kim’s nickname is the bulldog, and she is a tough kid … she’s confident in her skill and her ability and has a great understanding of the game,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said.

Finding her shot

Redshirt junior Megan Zullo had 20 points and two steals in UMass’ 82-66 victory over Quinnipiac in the championship game of the Brown Bear Classic. Zullo hit three 3-pointers in the last three minutes of the first half and finished the day 6-of-8 from beyond the arc.

On the season, Zullo is now shooting 42 percent from 3-point range, but she admits she was not always as good of a shooter.

“I always was more of a driver and penetrator, but when I was playing in middle school and high school I was playing more with my sister,” Zullo said of her playing days as a child. “She was the shooter, so I then got a shot because she and I practiced together.”

Zullo’s twin sister Kim also plays college basketball at Peace College in Raleigh, N.C. and the two talk frequently about basketball.

In high school, the two guards led Farmville Central High School to the North Carolina 1A State Championship in their senior year. In her career in high school, Zullo averaged 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 5.0 steals per game.

Zullo attended North Carolina State for her first two years of college but was unhappy with the situation there. She sat out all of last year for UMass because of NCAA rules after transferring, but formed a bond with her teammates in practice and around the campus. Along with Benton and senior Diatiema Hill, Zullo is one of three captains for the Minutewomen.

“I’m extremely happy here, and I think we’re all coming together and getting things done,” Zullo said.

Neil Carroll can be reached at nacarrol@student.umass.edu.

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