Early struggles force UMass women’s basketball to try different lineups

By Jesse Mayfield Sheehan

A young team takes time to come together and find out what works best for them, and that’s just what the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is doing this season, as the team has sent out three different pairs of starting forwards through its first three games.

Taylor C. Snow/Daily Collegian

In the first game of the season against Western Michigan, Rashida Timbilla and Kim Pierre-Louis were the starting forwards. Against Central Michigan, it was Timbilla and Kiara Bomben. And against American on Sunday, it was Bomben and Paula Tarnachowicz.

“I think we’re still evolving. I think you’ll see a different starting group tomorrow,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said. “We have a lot of talent, (but) we haven’t gelled in terms of, ‘This is the best starting five, this is the best sixth and seventh man.’ That’s a process.”

Dawley added that one of the main reasons for changing the starting lineup is the team’s struggles early in the game. So far, the Minutewomen have been outscored 114-77 by their opponents in the first half, and fallen behind 9-0 within the first two minutes against Central Michigan while taking a 17-6 deficit within the first seven minutes against American.

“I’m looking for aggressive defense out of the gate,” Dawley said. “We’re looking at maybe going a little bit bigger and going with some defensive kids that their mindset is just to protect, hold their ground, and that’s what we’re not doing out of the gate. Every game, we’ve started in a hole.”

UMass has had particular struggles down low. The team has been outrebounded by its opponents in two of its three games, including a 62-33 rebound deficit against Central Michigan. The team has also been outscored in the paint in all three games.

Dawley said that better boxing out can improve the rebounding, and that being outscored in the paint has mainly been due to poor transition defense. She also stressed the importance of communication between players on defense.

“Talking on defense has to be better,” she said. “We either over-help or don’t help enough. So, that’s a matter of getting freshmen and sophomores to get a better sense of what to do on the defensive end.”

The Minutewomen had a fairly strong performance on the boards on Sunday, outrebounding American 35-32, led by the efforts of Bomben and Timbilla, who grabbed nine and six rebounds respectively.

For Timbilla, who also added 11 points in the game, it was a pleasant turnaround after being shut down against Western Michigan and held to five points and two rebounds against Central Michigan.

Dawley said that Timbilla had been playing with an injury, and now that she’s healthy, the team can expect strong performances from her.

“I think with Rashida feeling better, I think we can go with a bigger lineup. We’re particularly looking at Kymber (Hill). She played tremendous defense over the weekend.


“So, we could go with a bigger lineup with just defense in mind. The offense might take a hit, but it’s not like the offense has clicked that well that that’s a worry I need to have. I think you’ve got to pick what end you’re going to fix first, and what end you think is most important, and what your identity’s going to be, and we want to be a defensive squad.”

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at [email protected]