Minutewomen Crush Saint Louis, 77-53

By Michael Wood

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

After suffering crushing defeats in back-to-back games to end winter break, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team started the new semester off right, defeating Saint Louis, 77-53, Wednesday night at the Mullins Center.

“I loved our efforts tonight,” UMass head coach Sharon Dawley said. “There was one point tonight where we had five girls who had never played on the same floor together and we were looking around for people and people were feeling it. I think it was our best night of mixing things up and it put a lot of confidence in us. A game like that will help everybody.”

Four Minutewomen recorded double-digits in points and assists in the matchup as UMass took the lead early on and never looked back. Jasmine Watson, Megan Zullo and Cerie Mosgrove combined for 49 of UMass’s 77 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.

“They played solid tonight,” Dawley said. “[Watson has to stop] getting into foul trouble. For her to play only 24 minutes, that’s only half a game and that’s not okay. But Cerie is on a tear right now and Megan hit some great shots tonight to help us out and give us a spark.”

After a sloppy start to the game, the Minutewomen found their form at the end of the first half. Watson, last season’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, got things started for UMass with six consecutive points despite playing for only six minutes. Point guard Dee Montgomery also paced the offense and tallied four early points.

As effective as the Minutewomen were as the game progressed, the Billikens did just as much to hurt themselves. Saint Louis went to the free throw line eight times in the first half alone, but only managed to convert two of those chances into points. Inconsistent ball movement and sloppy passing caused eight turnovers and the squad shot only 35 percent from the floor in the first half, compared to 58 percent for the Minutewomen.

Mosgrove contributed 11 points and seven rebounds to carry UMass, and Zullo hit two late 3-pointers to put the Minutewomen ahead, 40-25, going into the break.

“I felt good about the lead, but I always had it in the back of my mind that we’ve come back from more, so we can’t let up,” Dawley said. “We burned a timeout there just to remind the girls that they can’t let up because they needed to stay sharp and keep things up because you never know when that team can put something together and come back.”

The Billikens continued to struggle in the second half, going almost six minutes before scoring a point after the break. They shot only 25 percent from the floor and 29 percent for the game. Jacy Bradley was the high scorer for Saint Louis, netting 17 points and also recording a steal on the night.

The Maroon and White used the inconsistencies to their advantage, ripping off a 9-0 run as the half began.

Consistent play from players off the bench also added to the UMass attack. Sarah English tallied four points, Shakia Robinson added 11 and Montgomery netted six.

“I loved [the bench] tonight,” Dawley said. “I loved that Sarah [English] was the hero in the first half. Things weren’t rolling for us at that time and she did a great job coming in and stabilizing that for us. I thought Steph Lawrence did a great job for us too, and Dee [Montgomery] gave us a spark early on as well.”

“We have to keep getting better,” Dawley added. “As good as we are we keep taking steps forward then steps back, and we need to stop going back. We have to turn the corner and we’re in good position to do that and our focus now is to come out with game mentality and dominate from the start.”

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]