UMass Upsets Saint Joseph’s on Senior Night

By Steve Levine

On their night, the seniors delivered.

On Thursday night, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team welcomed Saint Joseph’s into the Mullins Center for a game that carried a little extra significance, as UMass recognized its senior players, Diatiema Hill and Kim Benton. The two veterans went on to lead their team to a 75-62 victory over the Hawks.

Although UMass (10-17, 4-8 A-10) already secured a spot in the Atlantic 10 tournament, it wanted to take care of a few things during their final game at home. For one, the Minutewomen wanted to do something that’s been difficult for them all season – win at home. Most importantly, however, they wanted to send their seniors out of the Mullins Center with a lasting memory – a win against a strong conference rival.

“I’m just so happy,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “I’m happy for Kim and [Diatiema]. This is the way we practice every day, so it was so nice for the kids to come together and beat a very good St. Joe’s team on our home floor.”

The Hawks (15-12, 8-4 A 10) entered the building on a three-game winning streak, with a victory potentially giving them a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament.

After losing their initial momentum, the Minutewomen regained their swagger when seniors Diatiema Hill and Kim Benton took over the contest.

With an energetic crowd on hand, the seniors paved the way for UMass’ 29-23 lead at the half.

“It was the last home game playing in the Mullins Center – you have to go all out,” Hill said, who likely will be returning next year after receiving a medical redshirt. “I played as hard as I could, and I saw that they couldn’t guard me sometimes. When I got help, I would give it to my teammates, and they would hit the shot. I saw everybody was on, so I kept passing it.”

Hill, who dedicated the game to Benton, played one of the best games of her career, finishing with 20 points, four rebounds and 11 assists.

The Minutewomen padded their six-point first half lead by outscoring the Hawks by seven in the second half. UMass shot 61.5 percent in the second half en route to its largest offensive outburst of the season.

Benton added to the onslaught by scoring seven points to go along with three rebounds and three assists. After celebrating the two seniors’ accomplishments at half-court following the game, the aspiring basketball coach couldn’t fight the tears.

“It’s been a great experience, and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Benton said. “The coaches are great, the team is great, and it has just been such a great experience.”

UMass looks to add to its momentum when it plays Charlotte (15-12, 8-5 A 10) on Sunday in North Carolina.

“[Charlotte’s] big, and we’re on the road,” Dacko said. “It’s a great challenge for us to match up with them inside and out. If we can play this kind of game against Charlotte, we’ll take our chances. I want us to continue this run we’re on now and extend Kim’s career as long as we can.”

Steve Levine can be reached at [email protected]