Minutewomen tumble to ninth straight defeat
KINGSTON, R.I. – Jasmine Harris could not buy a bucket in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Rhode Island, but in the second half, for 19 minutes, 50 seconds, she didn’t need to.
However, in those last 10 seconds, field goals were again out of reach.
Following a pair of free throw makes and a Rams five-second violation, Harris heaved the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s final hope up with five seconds left on the clock, but came up with nothing as the Rhode Island ran out clock, 45-42 winners.
“We were getting (Harris) off a double screen and the timing was just off,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said. “I don’t think the pass was as spot on as it needed to be, and I think we probably rushed the shot a little bit. I think we had a couple more ticks to get a better shot.”
Sloppy shooting was a theme for both teams in the matchup of the Atlantic 10 conferences bottom two teams. The Minutewomen (3-22, 1-19 A-10) shot just 28.3 percent from the field, while the Rams (6-19, 1-9 A-10) did not light up the score board either, converting 29.1 percent of their attempts.
Though she contributed a team-high 14 points, Harris was just 3-of-16 from the field, including 3-of-10 from beyond the arc. In the first half, she could not find her stroke going 0-of-6 from the field and 0-of-3 on 3-pointers, including a pair of air balls.
“(I was) definitely frustrated,” Harris said. “I was thinking that when I was missing shots and we were playing a really good game, a game we really wanted to win, I just felt like I was helping my team and that is where the frustrations coming from.”
After the break, Harris went from scapegoat to near hero as the Minutewomen mounted a late game surge.
With her team down three, freshman Harris spotted up a three from the wing that crashed through the net causing the bench to erupt with excitement. Just two possessions later, Harris took up an identical position and put the Minutewomen ahead for the first time in the second half. Her final three with 2:11 to play gave UMass a glimmer of hope, bringing the team within one point of the Rams.
Dawley was not surprised by Harris’ second half turn around, citing her recent form as a sign it only a matter of time before her shot turned up.
“She is playing so well right now that if she has a bad first half then you know she is going to have a good second half,” Dawley said. “What I love about the kid is that she just keeps playing. She doesn’t think, ‘oh I just missed a couple,’ she just keeps playing.”
“(Hitting those shots) definitely boosted my confidence,” Harris said. “It just made everything feel better because I was hitting shots, I was helping my team, we were coming back and at one point we took the lead.”
Harris was not the lone shooter to have a tough day. Jasmine Watson only managed five points over 23 minutes, after sitting at 16:09 to play having picked up her fourth foul. Dee Montgomery was the next highest scorer, with just a single 3-point make as her only bucket. Emily Mital, UMass’ leading 3-point shooter, finished with just a rebound, a foul and a turnover on the stat sheet.
For Dawley the poor shooting display was a symptom of the team’s overall struggles.
“I think that is what you get when a team has been struggling,” Dawley said. “When you don’t make shots then you lose sight of what is a good shot and what is a bad shot.
“But there were a couple in particular that hurt us a lot.”
Amidst the poor shooting output was a lone perfect shooter in Rashida Timbilla, who recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards, hitting all six shots she took from the field and adding a pair of free throws.
“I think I was being more aggressive and looking to score more,” Timbilla said. “It was definitely good to see the ball go in. Every time it goes in you gain confidence and then my teammates and coaches encourage me to keep attacking.”
The Minutewomen will be forced to make a quick turnaround in order to host the Charlotte at the Mullins Center tonight.
Because UMass’ matchup with Rhode Island had to be rescheduled when the team was forced to remain in St. Louis during the recent winter storm, the Minutewomen were left with the unsavory prospect of two games in as many days.
“This is ridiculous, to be honest, having to play tomorrow,” Dawley said. “But it is what it is. This is when they wanted us to play (the game), so we play it.”
The 49ers (20-4, 9-1 A-10) come to Amherst tied for the second best conference record and bring the A-10’s best rebounder, Jennifer Hailey (12 rebounds per game), with them. Hailey is also the fourth leading scorer in the conference at 15.5 points per game.
Since dropping their first A-10 game of the season, the 49ers have reeled off nine consecutive wins, including a win over Saint Joseph’s, which currently separates the two teams in the standings.
Despite her frustration with the scheduling, Dawley believes her team will be properly prepared and said the game will come down to making shots and not overall preparation.
“We’ll walk through some stuff tomorrow morning and probably watch some film tonight,” Dawley said. “But these games have been lost because no one can hit a shot. If we are playing 25 or 30 minutes than we need to get more than zero points.
“It is simple. It doesn’t matter who we play tomorrow. We got to box (out) and we got to make shots.”
Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.