Minutewomen overcome 26-point first half deficit to beat Hartford

By Jamie Cushman

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian
Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

For the second time in four days, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team faced a steep, uphill incline coming out of the locker room for the second half of play.

After falling behind in the first half against winless Boston University Friday, UMass (5-6) followed it up with a similar performance as it trailed by as many as 26 in the first 20 minutes against Hartford Monday afternoon.

However much like against the Terriers, the Minutewomen made the necessary second adjustments and defeated the Hawks 63-57 in come from behind fashion.

“I think we have firepower, but sometimes we don’t have the urgency we need all the time,” UMass head coach Sharon Dawley said.

Hartford (4-7) got off to a hot start and took a 41-21 lead into halftime after junior guard Deanna Mayza scorched the Minutewomen for 11 of her 16 points, including three 3-pointer’s in the first half.

Mayza ­– the only Hawk who finished in double figures – was held to just five points in the second half after Dawley made the decision to face guard her to get her out of her rhythm.

“We had a couple of kids who were assigned to face guard their hot hands and face guarding really left them with the inability to get open or handle the ball without someone right there. I think that lead to a lot of turnovers,” Dawley said.

After UMass shot 4-of-28 (28.5 percent) in the first half, the backcourt of Cierra Dillard and Bria Stallworth carried the load over the final 20 minutes as the duo combined for 18 points and were the only two Minutewomen to finish in double-digit scoring.

Dillard finished with 15 points while Stallworth was close behind with 13.

“I thought Bria got us going. She came out of halftime and just started getting after it, and she and Dillard just really started getting after it and had quality second halves,” Dawley said.

UMass capitalized on the Hawks 21 turnovers as the Minutewomen turned them into 23 points. UMass had just nine turnovers, which led to 14 points for Hartford.

Dawley credited senior forward Rashida Timbilla’s leadership as a key contributing factor in the win, as her defensive focus helped set the tone and urgency for the rest of the Minutewomen in the final minutes.

Timbilla also had a huge impact on the boards as she UMass with 13, in addition to tallying nine points.

The Minutewomen won’t be in action again until after the holidays as they are set to face UMass Lowell next Wednesday in their final game of 2015.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Mullins Center.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]