After toppling Ohio, 65-61, Thursday on the road, snapping a five-game losing streak, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team couldn’t complete the Ohio sweep as it fell, 50-40, in a defensive battle against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday evening.
Sophomore guard Emily Mital led UMass (2-6) with eight points and freshman forward Rashida Timbilla finished with a career-high 15 rebounds, but it proved to be too little as the RedHawks (4-3) used a late second-half surge to come out victorious.
Coach Sharon Dawley was happy with her team’s defense, but saw room for improvement.
“I thought we played great defense overall,” Dawley said. “Our zone was effective as well, but we didn’t box out as well as we had been. We had some positive energy going into it, but if we put that effort with how well we were boxing out two games ago, I think we would have had a different outcome.”
Sophomore forward Aisha Rodney controlled the pace of the game for the Minutewomen in the first half, contributing four points along with seven of her eventual eight rebounds.
Senior forward Kirsten Olowinski paced Miami, earning a double-double to lead the RedHawks with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Junior guard Hannah Robertson finished with eight points.
In a game highlighted by defensive prowess, Dawley said the game took a shift in momentum when senior guard Dee Montgomery was issued a technical foul with eight minutes, 54 seconds left to play in regulation after giving UMass a 30-29 lead.
“There were a lot of momentum shifters,” Dawley said. “I think there was a key technical call that changed our momentum. I think we were in a good spot when that happened, (but) we didn’t get to the foul line as much as Miami did.”
Despite turnovers, Dawley didn’t see much wrong with her team’s performance, aside from a loss.
“We came out fine defensively in the first half,” Dawley said. “Maybe a little more fired up in the second half, but our offense was really (struggling) the first half. We opened the game with turnovers – tough way to open a game on the road – but if we curbed our forced turnovers and boxed out better, I think we’d be in good shape.”
Montgomery said the team exercised a never-say-die attitude despite the team’s misfortunes.
“We never stopped, we never quit early, never gave up, stayed strong and with what was going for us,” Montgomery said. “Staying active on the defensive end, it’s something we’re very proud of. There were a lot of breaks that stopped a lot of the momentum we had, but for the future we know that we have to continue playing on, staying upbeat and then nothing can effect us.”
Reflecting on the road trip, Dawley said there are many positives to take out of her squad’s two performances.
“When I think positives, I think Rashida’s rebounding, Rodney’s overall play, (and) this trip in general,” Dawley said. “The great leadership by Dee, key minutes from kids off the bench, (whichever) different kids are getting different amounts of minutes, they’re doing great things with them. Nola Henry, Jasmine Harris, Millie Niggeling, Jasmine Watson — quality play off the bench is going to play into our success later on.”
UMass is back in action Wednesday night at Boston University.
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.