It was another statement game for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team.
But once again, it wasn’t the message UMass wanted to hear.
After falling to Fordham 69-57 on Wednesday in New York City, the Minutewomen (3-15, 1-2 Atlantic 10) went 0-for-2 on a road trip to the Empire State, losing 61-49 to St. Bonaventure on Saturday.
Down 45-31 with under 11 minutes left in the second half, freshman guard Jasmine Harris and redshirt sophomore Millie Niggeling exploded for an 11-point outburst to close a 14-point gap to one, making the score 47-46 with about four minutes to play in regulation.
The Minutewomen were outscored 14-3 in the remaining minutes.
“I think we were too tentative offensively,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said. “We should’ve dominated inside, but didn’t. We dug a hole that we managed to fight back from, but we weren’t able to get over the hump.”
From the start, the Minutewomen played evenly with the Bonnies (8-10, 1-2 A-10), finishing the first frame on the wrong side of a 29-22 tilt. Senior guard Alaina Walker led SBU’s attack with nine points, followed by freshman forward Katie Healy with six before halftime.
UMass had balanced scoring through the first half, which featured six points each by freshman guard Jasmine Harris and redshirt junior forward Kiara Bomben. Freshman forward Rashida Timbilla and sophomore forward Aisha Rodney both added four more points.
Dawley said the younger players were injected to bring energy and will continue to earn minutes during crucial moments.
“Typically we don’t have a lot of young kids on the floor together,” Dawley said. “We like to put veterans with young kids, but I thought the youngsters got after it and that’s a positive knowing they have a lot of years left to get better.”
With 14 minutes left to play, the Bonnies had widened their lead to 16 points, but the Minutewomen controlled the damage fighting back to within one. Although Harris and Bomben led in scoring again with five and six points each, UMass could not take control late in the game.
Niggeling also had 8 points in the second half before fouling out with less than four minutes in regulation.
Walker and junior forward Doris Otega combined for 27 points after halftime to power the Bonnies to the 12-point victory.
Dawley, whose team committed 16 turnovers in the loss, wasn’t pleased with the Minutewomen’s execution on Saturday.
“I would say lack of being able to finish was the biggest problem and turnovers would add to that,” she said. “A lot of the turnovers were just tentative offense. I’d say we have to change combinations, try kids that might look to score more than kids that we look to to play defense.”
Bomben echoed Dawley, noting the importance of cutting down on turnovers, especially in close games.
“Our turnovers resulted in points for them,” Bomben said. “I know it was a close game, too, but if we could (limit) those next game, that will definitely help us so we can get that win. I think we just need to come prepared, be ready to play and come out of the gate firing.”
Bomben said the team is focusing for the Butler game this Wednesday.
“We can’t let this game dictate tomorrow,” Bomben said. “All our hard work will pay off. … We’re hopefully going to shut them down and come out with a win.”
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.