Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cierra Dillard’s four-point play helps UMass women’s basketball edge Hofstra Wednesday

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(Shannon Broderick /Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick /Daily Collegian)

Back on Nov. 18 in a game against Harvard, Cierra Dillard had the ball in her hands with the chance to secure a victory for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team. On that night, Dillard’s potential game-tying shot rimmed out and the Minutewomen fell 67-65.

On Wednesday night against Hofstra (7-2), Dillard was in the same exact situation and this time, she came through.

With time ticking off the clock and UMass (3-4) trailing by three, the ball was in Dillard’s hands again when she put up a 3-pointer and was hit with contact. That millisecond was probably the longest in her life, as she looked on and saw her shot go down and heard the whistle blow for a foul. She then calmly stepped to the line and knocked down the free throw to put the game away, capping off a four-point play with just four seconds remaining.

With that exciting finish, UMass went on to beat the Pride 57-56 at the Mullins Center.

Dillard had one thing on her mind when she got the ball as time wound down: make the shot.

“I had been off, but coach just kept telling me to keep shooting,” said Dillard, who was 1-for-11 shooting before the shot. “I had a great screen from Alyssa (Lawrence) and a great pass from Bria (Stallworth), so they set me up pretty nicely for the shot and it went down.”

Defense was the name of the game on both sides of the court in Wednesday’s contest.

Both teams struggled mightily from the field, especially Hofstra, which shot an abysmal 27.9 percent on field goal attempts. That included a first quarter where the team shot 1-for-19 and scored just three points.

The Minutewomen shot better throughout the game, but they struggled a decent amount themselves, shooting only 37.5 percent from the field.

UMass coach Sharon Dawley was happy with her team’s defensive effort in the game.

“We were talking a lot about (Luciano) and (Loftus) going into this game and how dangerous they were,” she said. “Defensively we stuck to the plan and I think everyone that played did a great job. The only thing we didn’t do well was box out, but in general I thought this was our best performance defensively to date.”

A player who was giving the Minutewomen fits when they were on offense in the second half was six-foot-four forward Sandra Dongmo Jr. The junior finished tied with UMass forward Rashida Timbilla for most rebounds in the game, pulling down 12 boards. She also had four blocks on the day.

The win for the Minutewomen was a statement for the team, knocking off a Pride team that was 7-1. Dawley felt her team responded strongly after Hofstra made a comeback late.

“This team was 7-1 coming into this game, so they weren’t just going to roll over,” Dawley said. “During their comeback, we maintained our composure. Amber (Dillon) was right there saying ‘we’re good white, we got this, let’s not let it go.’ I’m proud of the girls for staying up, staying positive, and executing the shot that ended up being the four-point play perfectly.”

A big positive for UMass in the game was their bench play. The team’s bench outscored the Pride’s bench 29-16. The two leading scorers for the Minutewomen, Lawrence and Kymber Hill, both came off the bench and gave the team 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Stallworth chipped in 10 points, while Maggie Mulligan and Dillard had seven points, all in a starting role.

Offensively, Hofstra had three players score in double-digits. Sophomore forward Ashunae Durant led the team with 16 points, while Asia Jackson (12) and Kelly Loftus (10) each finished in double figures.

With the win, UMass extending their winning streak to two games. Lawrence feels this close win will give them a big boost going forward, but doesn’t want to make a big deal of it.

“I think it’s good confidence going into next game,” she said. “As you finish one game, you move on to the next one, but it’s definitely good coming off a win than coming off a loss.”

The Minutewomen will be back in action on Saturday when they take on Central Connecticut. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. at Detrick Gymnasium.

 

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

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