Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutewomen finish season with loss on Senior Day

By Jeffrey Okerman

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Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Collegian

Senior Day at the Mullins Center was celebrated by the bookend classes of the  Massachusetts women’s basketball team.

On an afternoon when Dee Montgomery and Jasmine Watson were honored for their four years of service to the team, it was a pair of freshman – Jasmine Harris and Rashida Timbilla – who ran the show for the Minutewomen  in their 67-54 defeat against Xavier.

Neither Montgomery nor Watson, the team’s two senior captains,  registered points on the day, but UMass coach Sharon Dawley noted that their contributions to the team go beyond a single box score.

“(With Watson and Montgomery) you have incredible leadership, you have incredible hustle,” Dawley said. “They have really done a good job rallying around the younger kids.

“I don’t think that is easy to sum up. The kids will tell you it has been a great relationship, a complicated relationship, a very deep relationship.”

Montgomery and Watson were honored in a pre-game ceremony in which the players were presented alongside their parents, took pictures with the coaching staff and received their commemorative flowers at center court at the Mullins Center.

Two hours,  40 minutes of basketball later and the gravity of the moment still had yet to sink in for the departing pair.

“It is kind of like a whirlwind and a lot is going through my mind,” Montgomery said. “At the end of the day you just have to deal with, go with it and remember the good times.”

“I’m just trying to stay in the moment,” Watson said. “I’m not going to get this moment again with my teammates.”

On the court, emotion fueled the Minutewomen (3-26, 1-13 Atlantic 10), but it was not enough to overcome a powerful showing by Musketeers (13-15, 7-7 A-10) center Jessica Pachko. After going to the bench early following a warning for talking to the officials, Pachko came back to offer a game-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. She went 5-of-6 from the line and added seven rebounds.

Following the game, Dawley could only offer praise to Xavier’s inside big.

“I thought she was exceptional,” Dawley said. “She was obviously a problem for us down low.”

With Watson sitting on the bench due foul trouble, Pachko outmatched a number of defenders that Dawley put in her way. Dawley conceded that having her center on the bench could have aided Pachko.

“That is what she has been doing for the last seven games, but without Jasmine on the floor it made it a little bit easier for her,” Dawley said. “She has got her patented moves. If she gets you down deep she is going to score it.

“I think she is a great player, but whenever Jasmine is not on the floor things get easier for opponents.”

Freshman pair Harris and Timbilla represented UMass’ best response to Pachko’s stellar output. Harris provided 12 points to the cause, while Timbilla registered a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds including eight on the offensive glass.

With seven assists, Timbilla was just three shy of a triple-double.

For Harris,  the seniors have made a lasting imprint on herself and the team as a whole.

“Jasmine and Dee have meant so much to Rashida and I,” Harris said. “I definitely think that the way that Rashida and I have learned to play has come from the leadership of (Montgomery and Watson).

“Dee and Jasmine are two of the best captains – no, the best captains – that I have ever played for.”

UMass was competitive in the contest, taking a 27-24 lead into the half. However, despite improved second half shooting from the Minutewomen, the Musketeers also hit a hot streak in the second frame that UMass was unable to compete with.

With 2:17 left in the second half, Xavier’s Amber Gray hit a 3-pointer falling away and off the back board, extending a three point lead to six. For Dawley, that play killed off any chance of a story book ending.

“We were disappointed that weren’t able to win on Senior Day,” Dawley said. “I thought the long bomb from the side with time expiring kind of broke our back. I don’t know what would have happened if that hadn’t happened, but sometimes plays just break your back and that will go down as one of them.”

The Minutewomen missed the postseason for the second consecutive season and finished with the second-worst record in program history.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.

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