UMass women’s basketball holds off Rutgers for first win of season
For the first time all season, everything came together for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team on Wednesday night at Mullins Center.
Led by Rashida Timbilla’s double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, the Minutewomen held off a furious Rutgers rally in the final minutes, coming away with a 64-63 upset victory to give UMass its first win of the season.
“We felt like this was coming,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said. “They just had that look about them. They led themselves.”
Timbilla certainly had that look Wednesday night.
Leading both sides in points and rebounds, while also dishing out six assists along with three blocks and a steal, she gave the Minutewomen (1-3) the all-around performance that they’ve been looking for since the start of the season.
“They push to be more aggressive all the time,” Timbilla said. “So I just thought, why not go for the win?”
But, it was a win that almost didn’t happen for UMass.
Leading 64-53 with just over four minutes to play, the Minuetwomen went cold from the field, as they were held scoreless for the remainder of the game. They missed all three of their field goal attempts, both of their free throw tries and turned the ball over three times as their lead kept shrinking.
The Scarlet Knights (3-1) took advantage and went on a 10-0 run, cutting the UMass lead down to a single point with 6.7 seconds left to play.
Asked what was going through her mind as Rutgers staged its late-game comeback, shooting guard Emily Mital wasn’t fazed by what was going on.
“We’re going to win this game,” she said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”
Dawley was impressed with the way her team handled the adversity of clinging to a lead that was slowly slipping away.
“No one really got shaken up at all,” she said. “The team looked very composed and clicked well.”
UMass clicked well right from the get-go. Kymber Hill and Kim Pierre-Louis joined Mital and Timbilla in reaching double digits in scoring with 10 points apiece.
Senior Kiara Bomben also chipped in with seven points and three assists, capping off a strong overall team effort from Dawley’s squad.
“That’s what you need to do to be successful,” Dawley said. “Their huddles on the floor, it said it all. They were a unit tonight.”
Despite trailing by double-digits the majority of the second half, Rutgers never went away. Led by Rachel Hollivay’s dominance in the post with 14 points and five rebounds, the Scarlet Knights didn’t make things easy for the Minutewomen.
Although Rutgers entered the contest heavily favored, UMass played the underdog role to perfection.
“Every time they punched us, we punched back,” Mital said.
Mital hit two clutch 3-pointers midway through the second half to keep the Scarlet Knights at bay. Whenever Rutgers seemed eager to make a run, Mital answered.
“I know I’m a shooter, coach wants me to shoot it, so I let it go,” she said. “That just gave us more momentum on the defensive end.”
Joey Saade can be reached at Jsaade@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Jsaade1225.