Despite freshman Jasmine Harris’ career-high 19 points, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team had its losing skid extended to eight games, as it fell 81-63 at Richmond on Sunday afternoon.
UMass (3-21, 1-8 Atlantic 10) nearly dug itself out of an 11-0 hole to start the game, but the Spiders (13-13, 3-7 A-10) regained control and put the Minutewomen away in the second half.
Running a new motion-based offense, the underclassmen stole the show for UMass, and 47 points came off the bench.
UMass coach Sharon Dawley attributed the success of the new offense to the fight of her younger players.
“We’re encouraged by the play of the freshman class,” Dawley said. “I thought they did a really good job. They put together a new press, it’s kind of like the freshman press, and I think that helped get us back within striking distance.”
The Minutewomen trailed 11-0 to start the game and committed seven turnovers within the first six minutes of play, but an offensive turnaround sparked by Harris and freshman guard Adriana Jordan helped the cut the deficit to 22-18 halfway through the first frame.
Harris, who believes she put out her best performance to date, said her inspiration was simply to help her team in any way she could.
“When we came out (down) 11-0, the whole team was working hard to fight back and I was working hard with my teammates,” Harris said. “I think we were all just more aggressive looking to the basket, looking to score. We’re a team of fighters.”
While Harris and Jordan led UMass in scoring before halftime, junior guards Becca Wann and Kristina King led Richmond, combining for 18 points in the first half.
King finished with 17 points to lead the Spiders, along with redshirt senior guard Rachael Bilney’s 16.
The Minutewomen failed to climb back from a 14-point hole at the start of the second half, as Richmond’s lead reached 22 with less than five minutes to go.
While unhappy with the outcome, Dawley cited clutch freshman play as a bright spot that she expects to continue this season.
“It’s encouraging seeing that (output),” Dawley said. “Moving forward, we’ll just keep playing the young guys and expect the veterans to fight for their minutes back and make some shots in order to get their minutes back.”
Dawley believes the chemistry between the younger players is because of a common playing philosophy, focused on motion.
Compared with veteran players who work better from set pieces, Dawley said her squad’s strategy depends on the group that is in play.
“It’s almost a tale of two teams,” Dawley said. “I don’t know if it’s better, but it suits certain kids more.”
Rhode Island, Charlotte up next
UMass finishes its road trip against Rhode Island on Tuesday afternoon, then returns home to Amherst for a tilt against Charlotte on Wednesday night.
But faced with an eight-game losing streak, Dawley is ready to change things up.
She said the next few games will be taken on with a tournament mindset.
The Rams (5-19, 0-9 A-10) are currently on a 13-game losing streak of their own, are led by freshman guard Tayra Melendez, who leads the team with 11 points per game.
Tuesday’s tip-off is set for 2 p.m. in Kingston, R.I.
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.