Overmatched and outplayed by a clearly superior opponent, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team came up empty on the road against No. 7 Notre Dame on Sunday, falling 94-50 in a game that was over almost before it began.
The Minutewomen (1-3, 0-1 Atlantic 10 Conference), who received a team-high eight points from senior center Jasmine Watson, freshman forward Rashida Timbilla, sophomore forward Kim Pierre-Louis and sophomore forward Aisha Rodney, found themselves on the wrong end of a lopsided 53-19 halftime deficit.
The Fighting Irish (2-0, 0-0 Big East Conference) shot 60 percent from the field while making 9-of-10 free throw attempts en route to building their 34-point first half lead.
Coach Sharon Dawley said her team came out tentative in the first half, but showed more confidence in the second frame.
“We definitely came out better in the second half,” Dawley said. “I think we were very uptight and nervous the first half. We missed a lot of (easy shots) then things started rolling in (Notre Dame’s) favor, but coming out of halftime we settled down and started playing more aggressively.”
The game was particularly emotional for Watson, a South Bend, Ind., native and former Washington High School teammate of Notre Dame All-American guard Skylar Diggins, because her family was in attendance.
“I was really thankful for all my family that came and were ready to support me,” Watson said. “They’ve been so supportive over these four years, and just to come home and showcase what I’ve been working on for the past four years, I’ve been so blessed to play in front of the people that watched me grow up.
“I know my family supports me from no matter where we play … that’s a huge part of my motivation – the strength that I have coming from my family members in any and every given second of any given day – but the homecoming part of it was the cherry on top.”
Despite a stronger showing in the second half, which saw guard Emily Mital, who sat out the previous game with bask spasms, go 2-of-2 on 3-point attempts, UMass faltered, posting 31 points while the Fighting Irish put up 41 to seal the victory.
Dawley was disappointed with a lack of execution, which included a season-high 34 turnovers, a number she said has to be cut down to find success.
“We’re turning the ball over so many times and not doing a good job getting people the ball when they’re open,” Dawley said. “A lot of turnovers today were forced, but some were careless, and it’s the careless ones we need to cut out of the equation if we’re going to be getting better on a day-to-day basis. Reading the defense is going to be key for us.”
Barron helps Quinnipiac quiet UMass
Playing in Amherst for the second time this season, UMass could not establish home court advantage as it fell 81-72 against Quinnipiac on Friday evening at the Mullins Center.
With Mital, the Minutewomen’s leading scorer through its first two games, absent due to back spasms, freshman guard Jasmine Harris was inserted into the lineup for her first career start.
Dawley said that, whether or not losing Mital hurt the team’s confidence, her squad looked uncharacteristically low on energy.
“(It was) a disappointing night,” Dawley said. “I thought we opened up pretty flat. Just didn’t get after it, didn’t have enough energy for me, (starting at) the jump ball.
“I don’t know if losing (Mital) this afternoon had a lot to do with confidence, but we’re not the same team that we’ve been looking like up until today.”
The Bobcats (2-0, 0-0 Northeast Conference) struck first as returning scoring leader, senior guard Felicia Barron, opened the first half with a bucket from three-point land, 29 seconds into the game. Barron, who is a native of Springfield and the 2008 Gatorade High School Women’s Player of the Year for Massachusetts, led Quinnipiac with 26 points on the night.
The Minutewomen’s quick transition passing helped kick start an offense led by Timbilla and Watson, who had 17 points each, but UMass erased deficits only to fall behind again and again throughout the match.
Trailing 40-35 at halftime, the game looked like a tale of two halves as the Minutewomen stormed back to knot the contest at 55-55 on a layup from Watson with 11 minutes, eight seconds left to play in regulation.
The momentum did not last long, as the Bobcats capitalized on UMass’ misses from the field, adding 41 points in the second half to the Minutewomen’s 37.
Although the outcome was not what she wanted, Harris said that the game experience gained by stepping in for Mital will help her development, and makes her hungry for victory.
“It wasn’t much of a pressure (thing),” Harris said. “But (it was) wanting to step up and do as well as Mital does, ‘cause like coach says, she’s a key player and I agree that with her we would’ve won tonight’s game. It was good experience, but it would’ve been nice to win.”
Peter Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.