UMass women’s basketball snaps losing streak with win against Rhode Island

By Anthony Chiusano

Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian
Alex Aritan/Daily Collegian

At the end of 40 minutes of play against Rhode Island on Sunday, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team found itself in a place it hasn’t been been since Dec. 17: the win column.

Behind a game-high 20 points from Jasmine Harris and 19 points from Rashida Timbilla, the Minutewomen  snapped a 17-game losing streak to defeat the Rams, 69-56.

UMass employed a press defense early in the game to jumpstart the offense to, according to coach Sharon Dawley, to overcome recent first-half struggles.

“I just think, adrenaline wise, we were coming out flat,” Dawley said.  “So if we could put a press on and maybe get a little more offensive possessions, it would help us out.”

The press defense paid dividends as the Minutewomen (4-24, 1-13 Atlantic 10) headed into halftime with a 29-28 lead.

“I think it helped to at least go into the second half playing a little more confident than playing in a catch-up game,” Dawley said. “The intensity and positive mindset overall made the difference today.”

Following the game, Dawley said that Harris, Timbilla and Kim Pierre-Louis led a “total team effort” en route to the win.

“(Harris) has been unbelievably aggressive,” Dawley said. “She’s been a scorer this year from inside and outside. Last year she was a shooter and now I think her aggressiveness towards the rim is actually better than her shooting.”

Despite Dawley’s praise for Harris’s inside work, the majority of her points on Wednesday came on outside jumpers. She finished 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

“The shots were just falling today,” Harris said.  “Like Coach said, I’ve developed going toward the rim more, but today, it was a switch-up. Whatever we needed to get a win, I was going to do.”

Pierre-Louis asserted her presence down low with 13 rebounds despite just eight points. She said that she wasn’t making shots at her normal rate, so she made it a point to establish a presence down low on both ends of the floor.

Dawley added that Nola Henry, Emily Mital and Kiara Bomben were also key factors in UMass’s win.

Henry, who Dawley said played “her best game of the season,” finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. Mital added nine points and was 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the game’s final minute.

Bomben finished with three points, but Dawley said that her defense in the second half against Samantha Tabakman (13 points) was crucial.

“[Tabakman] is a really good player and one of the most improved players that we’ve seen.  She’s just a workhorse down low,” Dawley said.  “We were able to take [her post game] away by meeting her early, and that’s when Kiara was so big down the stretch.”

The Minutewomen return to action against St. Joseph’s on Thursday for their last home game of the season.

“I think if we can duplicate this game for Thursday and do a little bit better job boxing out, we can be that team in the tournament,” Dawley said.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and can be followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.