UMass women’s basketball falls 56-48 in home opener against Buffalo

By Mollie Walker

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team dropped its second straight game Saturday in a 56-48 loss to Buffalo in its home opener at the Mullins Center.

While its defense stood strong for the majority of the low-scoring contest, UMass struggled to find consistency on offense, shooting just 35.7 percent from the field.

“We opened up our season scoring 74 points and today we only scored 48, so we just missed a lot of shots, a lot of easy shots,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said.

After the Minutewomen (1-2) clawed back within five points of the Bulls (3-0) with four minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the game, Buffalo survived by milking the clock, capitalizing on a few put-backs and getting a crucial 3-pointer from Joanna Smith with 1:22 remaining to put the game out of reach.

Smith finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds Saturday.

“We didn’t look like us, credit Buffalo they played pretty good defense, but we just didn’t look like us tonight,” Minutewomen freshman Bria Stallworth said.

The Bulls controlled the majority of the game and never trailed from the ninth minute of regulation on, although the score remained close heading into halftime. The Minutewomen managed to close the half on an 8-3 run to make it a six-point game heading into the break.

For the majority of the first half, UMass employed a 1-3-1 zone defense that converted three steals in the first quarter to keep the score tight. The zone defense worked well for the majority of the half but was broken down by five 3-pointers from the Bulls.

Starting the second half, UMass headed out in a man-to-man defense to try and defend the perimeter, and particularly Smith, who had 14 points in the first half. But the Bulls continued to find success behind the arc, sinking four more 3-pointers to help put the game out of reach.

UMass’ deficit continued to hover between single and double digits throughout the third and fourth quarters. The Minutewomen continued to fight, getting some help from their bench.

Nine points came from the UMass bench, led by Kymber Hill (five points). But it was sophomore guard Leah McDerment who had the biggest impact coming off the bench, according to Dawley.

McDerment only scored one point but was tasked with defending Smith one-on-one in the second half to great success. After Smith went 5-for-9 from the field in the first half, she was held to only three shots (2-for-3) over the final 20 minutes.

“Leah has been coming off the bench, Kymber has been coming off the bench, but I think they were two of our best players today,” Dawley said. “Perhaps they need to start the game so we start a little bit stronger.”

Stallworth led the Minutewomen with 13 points Saturday while senior guard/forward Rashida Timbilla chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds. They were the only two UMass players to reach double digits in scoring.

The Minutewomen next head to Boulder, Colorado for the Omni Hotels Classic tournament this weekend looking to put an end to its two-game losing streak. UMass’ opening game is Friday against Colorado at 9:30 p.m.

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.