Minutewomen ousted by Fordham

By Tom Mulherin

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

There are times this season when the Massachusetts women’s basketball team seems to have left all of its flaws in the past, when they play sound basketball in every facet of the game.

However, there are other times – a 65-42 loss at Fordham on Wednesday, for example – that suggest there is still room for improvement to take the program to the next level.

The Minutewomen (8-10, 2-4 Atlantic-10) struggled to get into a groove early on in Wednesday’s matinée matchup, and the poor shooting performance continued for the rest of the game. Alternatively, the Rams (14-5, 6-0 A-10) took advantage by starting off the game hot from the field, shooting 8-of-11 in the first ten minutes to build a 20-6 lead.

Falling so far behind that early in the game, on 3-of-15 shooting, is what UMass Coach Sharon Dawley believes made it so difficult to stage a comeback, especially playing at Fordham.

“When you have a slow start like that on the road, it’s hard to claw your way back,” Dawley said. “We shot the ball pretty poorly and they shot the ball very well. We got back within 12 at one point, and then we were not able to score.”

Despite the rout, which marks the worst loss for the Minutewomen since a 26-point defeat against Florida State in late November, UMass was not as bad as the score suggests. The defense allowed 20 points in the first 10 minutes, but stiffened up and only allowed 45 points in the last 30 minutes – including only 25 points in the second half. After Fordham shot 64 percent from the field in the first half with six 3-pointers, the Minutewomen held the Rams to 31.8 percent shooting and no made threes for the remainder of the game, prompting Dawley to call the performance “A tale of two halves.”

Despite the improvement defensively in the second half, UMass continued to struggle offensively, and as a team shot just 33.3 percent from the field for the game. Fordham, however, received strong offensive contributions from several players.

“(Hannah Missry) from the beginning of the game was just knocking down deep threes, which really spread our defenses out,” she said. “(Emily Tapio) was just the little engine that could, she plays real hard and aggressive. (Samantha) Clark stretches out the defense and does a good job sealing down low, so it was really just a team effort.”

While shooting struggles plagued the whole UMass team – with the exception of Kim Pierre-Louis who was her usual self on 6-of-9 shooting for 13 points – starting center Kymber Hill seemed to suffer more than anyone else. Converting just 2-of-9 shots from the field, Hill couldn’t seem to find any sort of offensive rhythm, which could have contributed to her limited 17 minutes on the floor. Totaling just five points and four rebounds, Hill’s stat-line isn’t exactly the most impressive numbers she has put up this season. Despite those numbers, Dawley believes that Hill, as well as the whole team, still put up a decent performance.

“She just missed shots,” Dawley said of Hill. “She played good defense, ran the floor well. She did a good job boxing out, but didn’t shoot the ball well. Had we shot the ball well, it would’ve been a close game.”

Outside of Pierre-Louis, no one scored in double-digits for UMass. Heading into Saturday’s matchup against Richmond, Dawley knows what to do to improve.

“We’re not able to put points on the board, so we need to do something about the first four minutes of the game,” she said. “We spent a lot of time on the scout (offense), so now we need to spend more time on our actual offenses.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected].