Although the Massachusetts women’s basketball team held Brittani Shells to nine points and eight rebounds in the opening game of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Richmond defense clamped down on the Minutewomen to knock UMass out of the postseason with a 54-47 victory.
“I thought we had a good game plan,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “We came out and pressed a little bit, and in the half court played a 2-3 zone. We struggled putting the ball in the basket, and we got great looks, but in the game of basketball you have to be able to put the ball in the bucket.”
Richmond led UMass by three points with 34 seconds left when the Spiders’ Rachel Bilney hauled in an offensive rebound that eventually stole the victory for her team.
Bilney grabbed a rebound off of a Crystal Goring miss and Richmond called a timeout. During the next play, Bilney drove to the UMass hoop and was fouled by Jasmine Watson, sending her to the free-throw line and consequently stretching the lead.
“We had an opportunity to win the ball game at the end,” Dacko said. “We played some great defense and just could not come away with the right rebound.”
UMass led 24-23 at the break, but could not keep the lead due to a lack of offense and allowed Richmond to pull ahead. The Spiders had 20 of their 44 rebounds on offense, while the Minutewomen pulled down 30 rebounds in the contest.
“They had some key offensive rebounds and I think that really hurt us at the end of the game,” Marnie Dacko said. “I think the other thing that hurt us was that we had an opportunity to open up to about 15 points in the first half, and we had open looks and open layups, but because of the tournament situation our kids played a little tight.”
Diatiema Hill had 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals for UMass. Hill and senior Kim Benton played their best defensive games of the season up top in the 2-3 zone in the first half.
Benton finished the game with six points on 2-of-6 shooting, as well as recording four assists and two steals. In her last game with the Minutewomen it was a bittersweet ending for Benton, who now leads the program in career-games played with 119 in her career.
UMass held Shells – the A-10’s leading scorer coming into the game – to single digits, but allowed Abby Oliver – the conference’s Sixth Player of the Year – to score 16 points and record five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Oliver picked up the slack left by Shells, going 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 from the line.
Jasmine Watson, who was named the A-10 Rookie of the Year last week, had nine points and seven rebounds, also going 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. She was in foul trouble, however, towards the end of the game, netting four total.
Sophomore Nicole Jones replaced the freshman forward down low in the first half and had four blocks, four points and four rebounds in the contest. She was also perfect at the charity stripe, hitting two free throws in the game.
Kristina Danella was also stifled by the Richmond defense and amassed only four points, six rebounds and two blocks in the game.
Though the Minutewomen end their season at 11-19 overall, Dacko feels the core of the team will return next season where she hopes to do better.
“We’ve got everybody back but Kim Benton,” Dacko said. “This team is going to work hard and this team is going to make some noise.”
Neil Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.