UMass women’s basketball faces off against tenacious Fordham defense

By Frank Corona

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

As if Sunday’s nationally televised home game against George Washington wasn’t already enough of a challenge for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, the team will be put to test yet again with a trip to Fordham on Wednesday afternoon.

The Minutewomen (8-9, 2-3 Atlantic 10) will take the court against the conference leader in an attempt to thwart the Rams’ undefeated record in A-10 play and put a halt to their current five-game winning streak. Although UMass has found a newfound surge in the 2014-15 season, taking down Fordham in Rose Hill Gym will certainly be easier said than done.

“I feel like our team tends to step up in a big way, anytime our backs are against the wall we are not counted out at all,” Cierra Dillard said following the loss to George Washington. “We’ve showed that in a lot of the games in the past.”

The Rams’ undefeated conference record comes as no fluke – they are the A-10s top scoring defense, holding its opponents to just 53.4 points per game. In addition to scoring defense, Fordham has also held opponents to just 35 percent shooting from the floor and 25.2 percent from behind the 3-point line, both of which are tops in the conference.

These defensive statistics have directly translated to wins for the Rams, compensating for the third worst scoring offense in the league (60.5), while shooting just 41.3 percent from the field.

Senior forward Emily Tapio leads the offensive charge with 12.2 points per game, the only Fordham player who averages double-digits in the scoring column. Guard Hannah Missry is second on the team in scoring at 9.3 ppg while forward Samantha Clark follows closely behind with 9.1.

With Fordham’s defense being a focal point coming into the matchup, the Minutewomen offense will have a chance to continue their success behind the second-highest shooting percentage in the conference at 42.4 percent, as well as showcase Kim Pierre-Louis, who holds the A-10’s top individual field goal percentage at 54 percent.

It also comes as no surprise that she also leads UMass in scoring, putting up 18.2 points per contest. The Minutewomen’s secondary offensive weapon, and only other player averaging double-digit scoring numbers, is Dillard, with 11.1 points per game.

Pierre-Louis and Dillard both see improvements in their offensive games when facing conference teams. Pierre-Louis shoots nearly 60 percent (59.3) from the field against the A-10 while Dillard’s scoring ups to 15.5 ppg within the conference.

“Like coach tells me, just keep attacking the basket and looking for my teammates,” Dillard said. “If I have the drive I have to take it and believe in myself.”

As impressive as its offense – and even its season – has been so far, UMass has an opportunity to really cement its success within the conference if it can manage to take down an impressive Fordham team on the road.

Despite their loss on Sunday to the Colonials, the Minutewomen seem confident that a bounce-back is imminent.

“I have total confidence in this group and I like the way they work, I like the chemistry we have, and I like the leadership we have,” head coach Sharon Dawley said.

Frank Corona can be reached at [email protected]