Minutewomen win at Mullins for first time in two months

By Neil Carroll

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6The streak has ended.

After eight consecutive losses at home, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team nabbed its third home win of the season, defeating the Fordham, 60-50, on Saturday in the Mullins Center.

The last home win came on Nov. 22 against Big East opponent Villanova in the fourth game of the season. This win not only eases the pressure off of UMass’ players for a home victory, but it also moves the team ahead of Fordham in the Atlantic 10 standings. UMass now improves to 9-14, and 3-5 in the conference.

“I just don’t think we are going to be okay with this win,” Watson said. “We still need to get better and we still have stuff to improve on.”

The Minutewomen got out to an early 8-0 start and led 27-18 at half. UMass extended its lead to as much as 25 in the second half thanks to a solid performance by freshman Jasmine Watson.

“We really wanted [Watson] to go inside because we knew that they had no one who could play her,” Dacko said of the forward. “She kept her composure, slowed things down – and again she has the ability to blow by people, or shoot over people – but I think her defense really contributed to her offensive performance.”

Watson had a career-high 21 points and added eight rebounds and three blocks as well. She dominated the post on both ends, stopping the Rams’ leading scorer, Randall Hurst. Hurst averaged 14.6 points coming into Saturday afternoon’s matchup, but was held to three points and four rebounds.

“This game, I really wanted to be more of a defensive presence,” Watson said. “Last game, I was there but I really wasn’t taking any charge or getting any blocks.”

Fordham falls out of a tie with the Minutewomen in the A-10 standings, and now has a record of 8-16 overall and 2-7 in the conference.

As a team, UMass had the advantage, 26-16, of points scored in the paint over Fordham.

Kristina Danella was also a big scorer for the Minutewomen. In 36 minutes, Danella was second in scoring with 16 points and added six rebounds.

UMass found itself in a very unusual position with a double-digit lead at halftime in the Mullins Center. Coach Dacko had the team prepare as if the game were on the road – foregoing the pre-game meal and usual home pre-game events.

“I think that we were used to the usual stuff, but the fact that we did something different kind of helped us,” Watson said. “We need different looks every now and then, and we need to stay focused until the tournament.”

The Minutewomen also had the rebounding advantage, 42-23, over Fordham, contributing to plenty of second-chance baskets down low in the first half.

With the exception of Megan Zullo and Kim Benton, UMass’ offense was in rhythm. The Minutewomen shot 40 percent from the field, but went back to their old ways, hitting 6-of-14 shots from beyond the arc.

“I think [Zullo] is pressing a little bit and [Benton] got ahead of herself a few times,” Dacko said. “We’ve got to keep our composure, and shouldn’t be turning the ball over 16 times to a Fordham team that did not put a lot of pressure on us.”

Zullo was 1-of-7 from the field, but did not let her scoring drought get to her. She applied tough defense on the Rams’ frontcourt, recording three steals, and also dished out seven assists in the win.

UMass was up by 15 points with two minutes, six seconds in the game, but the Rams did not give up, and through fouling, they cut to within 10 at game’s end.

Neil Carroll can be reached at [email protected]