The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has been plagued by poor starts so far this season, and this trend continued on Wednesday as the Minutewomen were unable to overcome a dismal first half that saw the team shoot just 8-of-30 from the floor en route to a 73-50 road loss against Boston University.
While UMass (2-7) once again struggled to find a groove out of the gate, including an 0-of-9 showing from 3-point territory before the half, the Terriers wasted little time in capitalizing on their opponent’s poor offensive showing, taking a 35-17 lead into halftime. Junior forward Rashidat Agboola helped bury the Minutewomen earlier, nearly putting together a first half double-double with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Yeah, (it’s) frustrating that we can’t score,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley told UMassAthletics.com after the game. “It’s been a few games now where we can only come up with, today, 50 points. We’ve got to be able to score a little bit better than that.
“Half-court defense was OK, (but) transition defense gave up a lot in the first half; that dug a hole for us.”
As has often been the case for UMass this season, a second half rebound, in which the team scored nearly twice as many points as it had in the first half, kept the final score respectable. But BU (6-3) maintained the pressure on its end as well, knocking down 71.4 percent of its 3-point attempts in the finals 20 minutes.
Though the Minutewomen received double-digit scoring efforts from Jasmine Watson (10 points), Millie Niggeling (11, including nine second half points) and Rashida Timbilla (13), who also pulled down 11 rebounds for her team-leading third double-double of the season, the deficit they found themselves fighting against throughout the contest proved too much to overcome.
“All in all, I feel like we’re out of sync offensively. I think we get rattled too much when we miss shots,” Dawley said.
With UMass slumping, the Terriers jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead in the game’s opening two minutes. After withstanding a brief Minutewomen run, the home team eventually opened up a 20-5 lead and never looked back.
Agboola continued the Terrier offensive attack after the half, finishing with a season-high 20 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Senior guard Chantell Alford contributed 17 points of her own on 6-of-10 shooting, including three makes from beyond the arc.
Boston University shot 48.3 percent for the game, over 10 percentage points better than UMass as a whole.
The loss drops the Minutewomen to a season-high five games under .500. But the standout play of Niggeling, who missed a string of games earlier this season with lower back stiffness, is a positive sign of improvement for a team looking for silver linings.
“(I) thought Millie came in and gave us good minutes,” Dawley said of her off-the-bench shooter, whose three successive 3-point makes in the opening minutes of the second half helped set the tone for UMass’ offensive turnaround.
Freshman guard Nola Henry recorded four points and a game-high five assists in a loss that marked the first time the Minutewomen have fallen while being powered by a Timbilla double-double.
“Nola played one of her better games,” Dawley said. “I liked the way Nola pushed the ball up the floor. I liked her intensity on defense, I thought she really got after it. She’s got to be able to score some layups for us, though, to round out that game.”
After leaving Boston, UMass has now completed three-quarters of its four-game, end-of-semester road trip. The Minutewomen, who are 1-2 on the trip, will finish up the trek at Mississippi on Saturday at 3 p.m. before taking an 11-day layoff over winter break.
Daniel Malone can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.