UM drops another Atlantic 10 contest

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Scoring five more field goals than your opponent will typically earn you a victory. That is, unless you turn the ball over 19 times – leading to a 20-4 disadvantage in points off turnovers.

The 16-point differential in that category, coupled with 13 fewer made free-throws was too much to overcome for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team (12-11, 2-6 Atlantic 10) in its 72-65 loss to Saint Joseph’s on Friday.

“We put them at the line too many times,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “Allowing them to go to the line 29 times is just far too many. When teams are scoring 22 points from the foul line against us, we’re not playing the right kind of defense.”

The Hawks renewed their historic dominance versus the Minutewomen, winning for the 21st time in 24 games at their home court against UMass. The win snapped a three-game losing streak against their foes from Amherst.

Sophomore Stefanie Gerardot tied a career-high with 15 points, but it went for not as Saint Joseph’s (12-9, 4-3 A-10) Jen Oyler torched the Maroon and White with 20 points – aided by her 5-for-11 shooting from long range – and 10 rebounds. Junior Kate Mills was the only other player in double figures for UMass, scoring 14 points and also adding five blocked shots.

Senior Whitney Ffrench was Oyler’s partner in crime, notching 17 points on the strength of 13 free throws. SJU’s leading scorer, Ayahna Cornish, was held to a 3-for-11 shooting night, but still had 12 points, three rebounds and six assists.

“Stefanie came in and did what she was supposed to do,” Dacko said. “She made some big shots, took it to the heart of the defense and played some inspiring basketball.

“Oyler and Ffrench played very well,” she added. “We knew Whitney was going to penetrate and Oyler was a kid who we recruited, so we knew she was a very good shooter. She centered up and hit her open looks, and even when we were right up in her face she was able to knock down shots.”

Although the score remained close for much of the game, the Hawks were in the driver’s seat most of the night, never trailing by more than two points. Saint Joe’s led 31-26 at halftime, and increased their lead to 12 with 11 minutes remaining to take command of the game.

UMass fought back to within three just four minutes later, but Ffrench helped her team maintain the lead with a couple of baskets to preserve the victory.

“We played hard in spots, and I’m happy with the team’s effort,” Dacko said. “I was disappointed because I thought we had an opportunity to win at the end, but we missed some easy buckets down the stretch.”

With just under two minutes left to play, Kim Benton added to her coach’s frustration when she was ejected from the game after committing a flagrant foul. UMass could have used her outside shooting – she was 3-for-6 from three point territory – to possibly mount a comeback, but the freshman point guard let her emotions get the best of her.

Benton – who became angered after an opposing players’ screen knocked her down to the canvas – put her team in a tough spot and without a point guard for the remainder of the game, as backup Sakera Young fouled out earlier.

“One of the players on Saint Joe’s came up and set a screen in the open floor, but it knocked Kim down to the court,” Dacko explained. “It was a dead-on screen, which was legal, that none of our players called. Kim got up dazed, and out of the blue she gave a cheap shot at one of the players who wasn’t even the one who set the screen.

“The flagrant foul by Kim added insult to injury,” she added. “I was not happy with Kim and what happened in her situation. I just think she needs to keep her emotions in tact, and let it out through her play on the floor. Her anger took her out of the game, and that’s not necessary when you have your other point guard on the bench who fouled out.”

Dacko in no way blamed Benton for the defeat, but rather pinned the loss more on the free-throw differential and the missed shots down low.

“We had 38 points in the paint but we should have had 58 points,” she said. “I think that there were still more opportunities for us to score inside. We shot 45 percent in the second half and 41 [percent] in the first [half], but we missed five or six easy layups again.

“We can’t be missing point blank shots at the bucket,” she added. “We got to be able to concentrate and finish. Outside of getting the kids eyes examined, I don’t know how to get our kids to put the ball in the basket.”

With just six games left on the slate, UMass finds itself clinging to what would be the 12th and final spot in the upcoming A-10 conference tournament. Despite their 2-6 conference record, the Minutewomen are actually in a favorable position due to their weaker remaining schedule.

The Maroon and White will square off against four of the five worst teams – in terms of overall record – in the 14-team conference the rest of the way. With Fordham (2-20, 0-8 A-10) all but eliminated, UMass essentially only has to contend with a Saint Louis team they beat by 20 points earlier in the season.

Eli Rosenswaike is a Collegian staff writer. He can be reached at [email protected]