UMass women’s basketball falls 75-62 to Harvard in first home loss of season

By Tom Mulherin

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Just three days from pulling off an incredible comeback win over Central Florida, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team couldn’t spark that same magic when trailing Harvard late in it 75-62 loss on Wednesday night, marking its first loss at home this season.

The Minutewomen (3-4) were able to keep up with Harvard throughout the first half of the game, entering the intermission with just a one-point deficit. The Crimson took advantage of its exceptional three-point game in the second half however, converting three 3-pointers – two from Ali Curtis and the other form Erin McDonnell – to expand their lead to 48-38 just three-minutes, 59 seconds into the half. UMass couldn’t cut that lead to a one-possession game from that point forward. However they kept the game close until Harvard went up nine with 4:22 remaining in the game.

“It was an up-tempo game, a physical game, probably a great game to watch,” head coach Sharon Dawley said. “I thought it was really good basketball.”

Entering the battle between two Massachusetts-based teams, UMass was sitting at a .500 mark, looking for its first winning record after seven games since the 2009-2010 season. Despite losing the intrastate matchup to fall one game below the neutral threshold, Dawley seemed to only take positives from the loss.

“As frustrating as it is to lose a game, I walked away from it encouraged in a lot of areas,” she said. “(This is) a much different team than last year. It’s a comeback team, it’s a deep team. I think we do a great job sticking together. (We do) a great job defensively.”

A big part of the loss can be credited to a poor shooting night from the field – especially in the second half – as the team converted just 23-of-63 shots for a 36 percent shooting percentage. Senior forward Kim Pierre-Louis led the team with 19 points on the night, but struggled to stay consistent by shooting just 6-18 from the floor, which set the pace for the rest of the team.

“I honestly think the game was lost today because we missed too many shots,” Dawley said. “I think we had a lot of great opportunities. If we can replay that game and grab five or six of those bunnies or free throws, we’re having a different conversation right now.”

As the game started to wane to its final minutes, Pierre-Louis was showing some signs of frustration with each missed shot she had. After playing a big role in the offense throughout the entire season, she credited her frustrations to the pressure she felt to score points in an effort to try to spark a comeback. With time running out, she said that she started to get “overly frustrated,” and she “couldn’t hold onto the ball,” because of that. Since Pierre-Louis is normally an offensive force however, Dawley discards any significance to the struggling performance.

“Kim missed a lot of shots, and the beauty of it is that it probably won’t happen again,” she said. “Kim doesn’t miss. She got them all out today, so it won’t happen again.”

One of the larger contributing factors to the loss can instead be seen through the style of offense the Minutewomen had to play in the second half. After breaking Harvard’s press with ease in the first period, the Crimson forced UMass to a half-court offense for the rest of the game, which is when the offense struggled. Harvard outscored the Minutewomen 42-30 in the second half.

“We loved to be pressed,” Dawley said. “When they took the press off, and it was more of a half-court battle, that’s when we got static in our offense. If that’s what we need to fix to be a better team, than we just need to make the half-court function like a fast-break.”

UMass returns to action on Saturday when it hosts American University.

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]