Following the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s 45-42 defeat to Rhode Island just a day prior, Jasmine Harris had one thing to say about fatigue:
“If you ask us tomorrow after our game, we’ll definitely be more fatigued,” the guard said.
But when the game ended last night, that prediction more accurately described the Minutewomen’s (3-23, 1-10 Atlantic 10) first half display rather than their energetic second frame in their 79-60 defeat to Charlotte.
For UMass coach Sharon Dawley, the fatigue combined with the task the opposition presented set them back early on.
“I think we come out of the gate a little bit fatigued from (Tuesday) and a little bit intimidated,” Dawley said. “I think if you watch enough film on these guys (then you realize) they are good.”
After 20 minutes, the two teams went into the locker room with the 49ers (21-4, 10-1 A-10) firmly in control of a 41-17 lead. Charlotte made as many shots as the Minutewomen had points. While the visitors hit 51.5 percent from the floor, the home team converted 24 percent of its field goal attempts. The fatigue tag was proving a hard one to shake.
Come second half, it appeared UMass had done just that.
Over the next 20 minutes, the Minutewomen amassed 43 points to Charlotte’s 38, shooting 58.3 percent from the floor, 82.4 percent from the line and winning the battle of the boards 21-12.
Dawley thought her team could take a lot away from the game despite the loss.
“I feel like there is a lot (more) hope out of this loss than other losses,” Dawley said. “We saw a lot of youth doing a lot of great things and we saw people deciding ‘I am going to take over.’ I think Rashida (Timbilla) made that decision multiple times today. Kim (Pierre-Louis) made that decision the minute she got on the floor.”
At the heart of it all were the Minutewomen’s bigs: Jasmine Watson, Timbilla and Pierre-Louis.
In the first half, Pierre-Louis contributed five points while Watson scored six, but it was Timbilla who came up empty. After the break, Timbilla dropped 11 points, grabbed five boards and added three assists and three steals.
“It was just everyone telling me to be more aggressive,” Timbilla said. “Sometimes that can be my down-fall where I just look to defer more and I came saying ‘time to be aggressive.’”
Pierre-Louis and Watson contributed in the second half as well. Pierre-Louis added another six points and five more rebounds. Watson scored eight more on her way to a team high of 14 while also swatting four more shots on her way to six blocks total.
As the team mounted their second half surge, a smile could be seen across Watson’s face.
“As a leader and somebody that has played the game for a long time I know that my teammates look up to me,” Watson said. “So when I make a play I feel like I am making a play for them and it just boosts our energy.
“Mentally I am just thinking ‘I am doing this for my team,’ so it kind of makes me smile.”
Stewart scores her first
Amid a lopsided 19-point defeat came a career landmark that had the entire UMass team on its feet.
With under 2:30 to play and the 49ers ahead by 20, Dawley called upon Amherst native Victoria Stewart to enter the affair. With 49 seconds left on the clock Stewart, who had played just nine minutes through the season up to that point, came down with her first offensive rebound, went back and was fouled.
The UMass bench erupted and calmly, Stewart stepped to the free throw line, set herself and sunk the first attempt, her first career point.
For Stewart, it was not the point that excited her the most, but rather her teammates support and enthusiasm.
“I was excited but I was more excited that my team was excited,” Stewart said. “It just shows I guess how much they love me.”
Dawley made it a point to emphasize the local freshman’s work ethic despite the limited minutes.
“Victoria is our spark plug,” Dawley said. “She is an example of ‘we need to work hard every second of every day,’ and people keep getting better if we do that and she has gotten better every day she’s been here.”
Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.