49ers too much for Minutewomen

By Neil Carroll

The Charlotte 49ers apparently saved the best for last.

In what was the last game of the regular season for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, the 49ers had an almost flawless first half, and eased their way to an 85-51 victory over the Minutewomen Sunday afternoon.

The 49ers offense had a great performance in the early going, and was led by senior Aysha Jones. In the first half alone, Jones had 14 points, two steals, two assists and two rebounds. She was 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and stretched UMass’ defense on the fast break, while finishing the game as the leading scorer with 18 points.

Charlotte also dominated possessions in the key, scoring 40 points in the paint, while UMass scored just 19 on the inside.

Ashley Spriggs was second in scoring for the 49ers with 14 points, four rebounds and six assists. Spriggs was 7-of-12 from the floor in the game and yielded little success to the UMass forwards.

Megan Zullo scored 11 points leading the Minutewomen, as she went 3-of-6 from the field. The redshirt junior has been dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis – the irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on

the bottom of the foot – in her right foot, but is now playing through the pain.

Zullo put the first points on the board for UMass with a 3-pointer with 15 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half.

The UMass deficit was in double-digits for most of the game, and the Minutewomen were forced to play from behind.

Kristina Danella – UMass’ leading scorer coming into the game – was again held under 10 points. This makes the fourth game in a row that Danella has been limited to a single-digit point total.

Freshman Jasmine Watson was second in scoring for the Minutewomen. The forward had eight points in the second half and finished the game with 10 points to go along with seven rebounds. Charlotte’s Spriggs and Amanda Dowe hounded Watson inside on the boards, but the freshman finally broke through in the second half.

Although the 49ers scored 85 points on the Minutewomen defense, it was UMass’ offense that initially caused the problems for the team. UMass turned the ball over 21 times in the game, while Charlotte had just eight turnovers. The surplus of turnovers by UMass gave Charlotte extra possessions – ultimately meaning extra attempts at the basket.

The 49ers also ran an effective fast break with the turnovers they forced. Shannon McCallum had five steals and seven assists, to add to her 11 points and five rebounds. The junior’s six-foot frame was useful both on transition offense and defense. She also matched up against Danella, giving UMass coach Marnie Dacko match up problems.

Charlotte finished the regular season with an impressive 12-1 record at Halton Arena after Sunday’s victory over UMass.

Coming into the game, UMass was fresh off of a 10-point upset over St. Joseph’s at home, which brought a major morale boost going into the end of the regular season. However, for UMass, the reigning A-10 tournament-champion 49ers were too much for the Minutewomen to handle.

The Minutewomen take on No. 8 Richmond in the opening round of the A-10 tournament Friday at noon.

Neil Carroll can be reached at [email protected]