For 20 minutes the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s rebounding renaissance frustrated Butler.
Only 20 minutes.
The Minutewomen (3-16, 1-3 Atlantic 10) scored 17 of their 35 first half points on second chance opportunities. However, in the second half they totaled just three, leading to a 75-61 letdown.
For UMass coach Sharon Dawley there was no better way to describe what she saw from her team than with an age old cliché.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Dawley said. “It is frustrating. They came on our floor and outplayed us in the second half.”
Rebounding was a major focal point for Dawley leading up to the game against the Bulldogs (12-7, 3-1 A-10), and the Minutewomen responded early, taking firm control with a 28-19 advantage on the glass.
Fifteen offensive rebounds by UMass powered the team to a two point halftime lead, including four from center Jasmine Watson, three from Rashida Timbilla and two from three others.
That all changed in the second half as the Minutewomen saw their nine-point rebounding edge evaporate, and their lead in the game quickly followed suit. The Bulldog’s secured 25 boards to UMass’ 16 in the final 20 minutes.
Watson believes Butler had figured her out, contributing to her ineffectiveness after the half.
“In the first half I feel like I was being more aggressive and it kind of helped the team,” Watson recalled. “In the second half they kind of adjusted to what I was doing, what moves I was doing, (helping) me getting a lot of offensive rebounds
“They just caught on to what my game was.”
In the first half, Watson registered four offensive boards, putting three back for immediate second-chance points, along with three rebounds on the defensive end. Come the second half, the senior was held to just a single defensive board.
The paint presence faded along with the rebounding in the second half. Eighteen of Butlers 42 second-half points came in the paint, seven on second chance opportunities. The Minutewomen were only able to add 12 defensive rebounds in the second half, while Butler nearly matched that effort on the offensive glass with 10.
This allowed bigs that UMass neutralized early to come alive in the second frame. Daress McClung added six rebounds with 14 points on her way to a double-double which seemed distant at the end of the first, with just four and six, respectively. Liz Stratman added seven rebounds, three on the offensive glass, in the second half as well.
“We were securing (the rebounds) in the first half, but (in the) second half we weren’t doing a good job,” Dawley said. “We gave up easy boards. We gave up hustle plays. I think at that point individuals were too worried what they were not able to do on offense and it really stifled them to be doing what they were doing in the first half.”
The Minutewomen that had been able to carry a narrow advantage into the second half had been cleaned out by the revitalized Bulldogs to the tune of 44 rebounds apiece, an even number that could not have been expected had UMass maintained its footing.
For Dawley, maintaining that effort for the required 40 minutes is a problem she’s still struggling to solve.
“That is the million dollar question, isn’t it?” Dawley said.
Niggeling keeps UM alive
Redshirt sophomore Millie Niggeling kept the Minutewomen in the contest as the second half rolled on.
After shooting just18 percent from the field, including four misfires from beyond the 3-point line, the shooting center recorded a pair of treys in the second frame to keep UMass within shouting distance of the Bulldogs.
Niggeling opened the second half with a quick 3-pointer, a much-needed confidence boost.
“It was really big for me to hit (that shot) just to get my confidence up,” Niggeling said. “Once I hit that shot then I was confident to shoot the other ones.”
The six points and three rebounds in the second half gave the Sioux City native her first double-double in A-10 play this season with 10 points and rebounds. However, Niggeling admits there should have been more from her.
“They definitely adjusted their defense and they were definitely closer to me,” Niggeling said. “They weren’t letting me pop from the screens and I was not able to get as many open 3s, but I still should have knocked some down.”