Minutewomen lose, 58-55, to Central Connecticut Wednesday

By David Martin

Lorin Reid/Collegian

In a game that saw seven different lead changes throughout the course of the game, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team could not break Central Connecticut’s defensive pressure in the overtime period, losing 58-55, at the Mullins Center on Wednesday night.

The Minutewomen (1-1) were frustrated by the Blue Devils’ (2-0) coverage in the offensive zone for much of the second half and overtime. The CCSU defense stifled UMass shooters around the court and forced 27 turnovers, four of which occurred in overtime.

“I thought their defense was pretty good,” said coach Sharon Dawley. “It obviously rattled our guards quite a bit, turning the ball over 27 times. On the flip side, our man-to-man did not do what we needed to do because we only forced 14 turnovers.”

In addition to turnovers, the Blue Devils restricted many of the Minutewomen’s opportunities from both outside the arc and inside the paint. UMass went 1-for-9 on 3-point shots from the second half on and finished the night 2-for-11. Inside the zone late in the game, CCSU tipped several Minutewomen shots while also forcing hurried and unbalanced attempts.

Also frustrating for UMass was its performance from the free-throw line. While the Blue Devils went 8-for-10 from the charity stripe, UMass was only 7-for-16 while missing their final four attempts of the game.

“Today, I would say free-throws drove me crazy, missed lay-ups drove me crazy, and not boxing out drove me crazy,” said Dawley. “So I am officially crazy.”

Early on in the game, the Minutewomen jumped ahead to both 8-2 and 16-10 leads, but were unable to maintain them. CCSU went on a 12-0 run to take a 22-16 lead, but then saw its momentum stall as UMass freshman center Millie Niggeling drained three consecutive shots to jumpstart the Minutewomen offense. At the end of the first half, UMass led the Blue Devils 33-27.

“I was very encouraged by Millie’s minutes,” said Dawley. “I think she came out aggressive on offense, and I think that she played better post defense than our post players that have been going at this a little longer.”

“Millie is extremely skilled in the offensive end,” added Dawley. “Whether it is a step-through, a traditional lay-up or a three-point shot, I am actually shocked when she misses.”

Right from the start of the second half, both teams fought tenaciously to take control of the game. Neither side could score in more than short, contained bursts, as each defense disrupted shot and pass attempt alike. The teams seemingly exchanged the lead every few minutes as they struggled to string together runs. In all, the score was tied seven times in the half.

After ending regulation tied at 55, defense would again prove critical as both teams struggled to get off good shots under pressure. The Blue Devils took a slight lead as junior center Kirsten Daamen successfully converted on a lay-up with just under four minutes remaining. CCSU later added to that lead with a free-throw in the final 12 seconds of the game, forcing senior guard Megan Zullo to try and tie the game with a last-second shot from well behind the arc.

In all, the Blue Devils finished 23-for-75 from the field with 41 rebounds, 16 assists and 13 steals. Daamen owned the team’s best performance with 20 points off of shooting 9-for-26 from the field and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

The Minutewomen ended the night by draining 23-of-58 shots with 50 rebounds and 15 assists. Junior center Jasmine Watson led the team with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected].