Women hoopsters bounce Bonnies

It couldn’t have gotten much worse Wednesday for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team. Being shot down by Rhode Island, the cellar-dwellers of the Atlantic-10, was bad enough for the besieged squad. However, after today’s MRI on sophomore Ebony Pegues is completed, the UMass roster will most likely be one Minutewoman short for the rest of the season.

“Do I think she’s going to be out for the year? Probably,” head coach Joanie O’Brien said. “But at this stage of the game, it’s not that big of a deal. We just crossed a bridge. If they tell us tomorrow (that she tore her ACL), then that’s what it is.”

Yesterday, when the Minutewomen took the floor for their conference match-up with St. Bonaventure, Pegues hopped to the end of the bench. It was from that position that she watched her team beat up the Bonnies, 76-45 to secure its tenth win of the 2000-01 campaign.

Sophomore Kristen Cannon went 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from behind the arc on her way to a game-high 17 points. Prior to the battle, Cannon had played a total of 16 minutes the entire season. But with Pegues gone, O’Brien was forced to mix things up, subsequently giving the “Cannon-ball” her first career start.

“When somebody goes down, somebody has to step up into a different role,” O’Brien said. “And when bad things happen you have to find a silver lining. Maybe with Ebony going down, this is Kristen’s silver lining to step up. And hopefully she can continue this.”

“I felt really comfortable out there,” Cannon said. “I was given the opportunity and I just took advantage of it.”

It took only fourteen seconds for Cannon to light up, as she drilled a three-pointer to give UMass the 3-0 lead. Just over a minute later, she released another one of her patented rainbow shots and nailed her second three-pointer of the contest.

“She came out and took the most of her opportunity,” St. Bonaventure head coach Jim Crowley said. “She knocked down two early shots and her confidence went from there.

“I think other people fed from that,” he continued. “You have a kid who’s been working hard all year in practice – gets a chance to play – and she delivers. Her teammates are going to feed off that and they certainly did.”

With 13:35 left in the first half, sophomore Jen Butler (10 points) picked up a loose ball just outside the paint and banked a fall-away jumper to give the Minutewomen an 18-8 lead. About two minutes later, senior Kathy Coyner (15 points, 13 in first half) sank a three-pointer, upping the Maroon and White advantage to 21-9. The assault was on, and UMass wouldn’t look back. In the second half, the Maroon and White extended its lead to as much as 34 points.

“Joanie’s teams have always played great defense and she deserves a ton of credit for getting them ready after a tough loss to Rhode Island,” Crowley said. “They don’t miss a beat and they buried us today.”

The Minutewomen were stifling on the defensive side of the ball, on the good end of the Bonnies 29 turnovers. The UMass press, combined with the strong presence of Butler and junior Caroline Nehls frustrated the St. Bonaventure offense to its 14-for-45, 31 percent shooting.

UMass had four players in double figures and hit just under 50 percent of its shots, a dramatic improvement on its 24 percent disaster in Rhode Island.

A huge scare for UMass came late in the first half when Butler went down with a leg injury. She did not return and will have x-rays done today.