UMass women’s basketball drops a close game to in-state rival Harvard

By Adam Aucoin


(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

(Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team had a chance to tie or win its game Wednesday night after Harvard missed two straight foul shots in the waning seconds.

UMass forward Alyssa Lawrence ripped down a defensive rebound and pushed it up the court to guard Cierra Dillard, who took a last-second 3-pointer. But the shot rimmed out and, UMass (1-1) lost 67-65 against the Crimson at Lavietes Pavilion.

“It’s important to get a rhythm and gain confidence,” Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley said. “On a night like tonight we had spurts, but in terms of four quarters, we didn’t own the game. If we want to pick up these close wins, we’ll need to be strong for four quarters.”

Seniors AnnMarie Healy and Shilpa Tummala led Harvard offensively with 18 and 17 points respectively. Both chipped in five rebounds as well.

Dawley knew the two were going to be tough to slow down in the game.

“(Tummala) was strong and had some nice shots especially early on, but I feel like (Healy) is the one that broke our backs,” Dawley said. “The timing of her shots and her work ethic was incredible. I think she was the best player on both sides of the ball tonight.”

The Minutewomen aren’t particular used to close games, as only six of their games were decided by five points or less last season.

Dawley admits it’s tough to lose a game that could have been won and realizes it will be important to win these games as the season progresses.

The two teams were even throughout the night as Harvard (1-1) had a slight lead in rebounds over the Minutewomen, holding a 38-34 advantage. Both teams also had almost identical success from the foul line in the game. The Crimson were 64.7 percent while UMass was 64.3 percent from the line.

Dawley credits the help-side defense of UMass as a big reason the team fell Wednesday. The defense she describes as “kill defense” with under 10 seconds on the shot clock was a major point she sees needs improvement.

The Minutewomen jumped out to a 29-27 halftime lead and they held the advantage until 34 seconds into the fourth quarter when Destiny Nunley’s layup put Harvard up 47-46. Neither team held more than a four-point lead for the final quarter.

UMass saw another big performance out of freshman guard Bria Stallworth, who followed up her opening day scoring output of 19 points with another 19-point game Wednesday.  The Chicago-native was also tied for the team lead with four assists.

Dawley was nothing but impressed with her young guard for the second straight game.

“She’s phenomenal and she’s just going to keep getting better and better,” she said. “She is always taking good shots he makes things run for our offense. I don’t think you can ask too much more from a freshman. Having 19 points in your first two games is impressive.”

Both Dillard and Alyssa Lawrence chimed in with eight points while Rashida Timbilla grabbed 10 rebounds.

Preparing for the Bulls

The Minutewomen will look to get back in the win column Saturday, as they take on Buffalo in their home opener.

Dawley is looking for increase in defensive effort throughout the week to prepare for the Bulls.

“We’ll be doing a lot practice on defensive pressure and help-side defense over the next couple days,” Dawley said. “Being strong on that side of the ball is going to be what makes or breaks us this season, so it’s important we fix it up early in the season.

Tip off Saturday is set for 5 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34.