UMass stymied early in loss to George Washington

By Frank Corona

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team entered Sunday’s game with high expectations in front of a nationally televised audience. But the Minutewomen were slow out of the gates and it cost them as they fell to George Washington 69-54 at the Mullins Center.

“I walked in today totally expecting to beat these guys,” said UMass coach Sharon Dawley. “I had no doubts that we were going to come out ahead.”

Although the confidence was there for UMass, sloppy play early contributed to a 24-6 deficit with nine minutes, four seconds left in the first half.

The Colonials opened in a full court press and forced early turnovers. Even after beating the press, it became evident that the UMass offense was taking a hit after constant defensive pressure from George Washington.

“St. Joes has a good press, La Salle has a good press, we see it day in and day out we just have to do a better job,” Dawley said. “I thought our problem was after the press, then what, I didn’t think we attacked from that point.”

Junior forward Rashida Tambilla led the team in rebounding, finishing with 11 boards after collecting four in the first half. She attributed some early miscues to pressure both on and off the court.

“It was a big game, any time the No. 1 team in your conference comes to town, and you’re on T.V. it’s big,” Timbilla said. “Maybe nerves got in the way of that, but it is another game and one that’s a good test of a learning curve for us.”

The Minutewomen didn’t allow their early struggles to dictate the entire game and pulled within eight points with 30 seconds remaining in the first half.

“When we got down early we had just as many good shots as they did but they just didn’t fall, so it wasn’t like we weren’t getting to the basket,” Dawley said. “The play never bothered me. This team never quits; they don’t know what it means.”

UMass shot just 32 percent in the first half.

Even with a quiet night offensively from freshman guard Cierra Dillard, who finished with seven points, Dillard was able to get her teammates involved with five assists on the afternoon.

“You always want the friendly roll on your shots, but I feel like I have great teammates around me who find me, or I could kick it out to Emily Mital because I know she can knock down the three,” Dillard said. “When I drive I always look to pass on my teammates who can knockdown shots.”

UMass was more efficient shooting in the second half (45 percent), but turnovers continued to haunt the Minutemen as the George Washington collected 20 points off of 24 Minutewomen miscues.

UMass was also outrebounded 45-31.

“There were a lot of defensive plays that I thought we did a really great job with, but then we couldn’t secure the rebound at the end of the play which was problematic and we lost the rebounding war by 14, Dawley said. “That was tough with 16 of them being offensive boards so that’s something we obviously have to take care of.”

George Washington opened the second half on a 7-2 run which pushed the lead to 43-28. UMass did not mount a comeback. Kim Pierre-Louis led UMass with 15 points, while Hannah Schaible led the Colonials with 14 points.

Despite the loss, Dawley was high on her team’s performance against a highly praised opponent.

“I would say in this is the best team in terms of leadership that I’ve seen at UMass in our 5 years and I think that’s going to go a long way,” Dawley said.

“We talk about it in the locker room, the fact that we’re right there, pretty much this was a 10-point difference, we know that we’re right there we had 24 turnovers, a lot unforced, we have to take care of business there and we can’t wait to see these guys in the tournament.”

UMass will travel to the Bronx on Wednesday to face off against Fordham at 12pm.

Frank Corona can be reached at [email protected]