It’s been a difficult season full of inconsistent play and frustrating defeats for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, but the Minutewomen’s 83-44 loss at No. 17 Dayton on Sunday might be the team’s lowest point yet.
UMass (3-17, 1-4 Atlantic 10) shot just 33.3 percent from the field and was held without a double-digit scorer as the Flyers (17-1, 5-0 A-10) forced 31 Minutewomen turnovers and cruised to an easy, wire-to-wire blowout victory.
After the game, UMass coach Sharon Dawley was concerned with her players’ readiness to face down a difficult challenge from the A-10’s top-ranked team.
“I don’t think we came out of the gate aggressive enough,” she said. “I don’t think we played well enough, obviously. I don’t know if their ranking or record intimidated us prior to the game starting, but we definitely looked like a very intimidated group at the jump ball.”
The Minutewomen opened with an inauspicious start – four turnovers in their first five offensive possessions – establishing a sloppy tone that would taint their efforts throughout the game. Lazy inbound passes and traveling violations plagued the team on numerous occasions, helping Dayton to score nearly half its total points (40) off UMass turnovers.
“I think it’s, again, being intimidated,” Dawley said. “(That’s) why you would throw the ball away to someone that’s not open, almost like hot-potato, or travel.
“You’re thinking more of your shot getting blocked than you are that you moved (your pivot foot). That was a big part of it.”
Unnecessary and untimely turnovers have limited the Minutewomen’s chances for success all season, and Dawley is still left scratching her head as to why.
“If I knew why we turn the ball over, that would be the million dollar question,” she said.
Four Flyers scored in double-figures, including a game-high 18 points from Amber Deane and Andrea Hoover, as Dayton launched a grinding offensive attack that was never explosive, but steadily wore down the UMass defense. The Minutewomen failed to mount any sort of a counterattack, often slogging through long stretches of offensive ineptitude, including a run of nine minutes, 42 seconds in the first half in which they were outscored 17-0.
Dayton capitalized on UMass’ drought and took a commanding 41-17 lead into halftime.
The Minutewomen’s leading scorer on the season, Jasmine Watson, scored only six points in 17 minutes before fouling out with 7:09 left in regulation.
“It was disappointing that she wasn’t able to go for a little bit longer,” Dawley said. “A couple of those fouls we could’ve avoided, for sure, if she didn’t go up to block shots. But that’s how she plays.”
UMass struggled to replace Watson’s production in the paint. A pleasant surprise, however were the contributions of Jasmine Harris, who scored a team-high eight points and pulled down five rebounds in only 15 minutes off the bench.
“I’d say Jas Harris was a bright spot,” Dawley said. “In the second half she came in, and I think she had eight and five and was really, really aggressive.”
With the game well in hand and looking for a vital sign from her squad, Dawley was pleased with the efforts of her frontcourt late in the game.
“Kim (Pierre-Louis) came in and was aggressive, gave us some quality minutes and at least gave us some life, some fight,” she said. “And I thought Rashida [Timbilla], in the second half, was very aggressive, more than she’d been in the past few games.”
Millie Niggeling, Dee Montgomery and Aisha Rodney each added five points for the Minutemen win the loss.
UMass next returns home to Amherst for a matchup on Wednesday with conference foe La Salle at 11:45 a.m. in the Mullins Center.
Daniel Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.