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UMass women’s basketball cruises to victory against UMass Lowell behind stifling defense

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian

In a battle of Massachusetts’ two largest state universities, it was the Massachusetts women’s basketball team who cruised to an easy 84-58 win over UMass Lowell Wednesday night at Mullins Center.

The win for UMass (6-6) extends its win streak to three games, a feat it had not accomplished since the 2011-12 season, which it finished 8-21.

Despite the teams being large rivals in hockey, this was the first time the two programs have faced each other in women’s basketball after the River Hawks (3-9) moved all of their sports to Division I in 2013.

Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley was cognizant of the rivalry in play, but believed the opponent didn’t serve as motivation for Wednesday’s game.

“I think what motivated us honestly was to keep getting better coming off the big comeback win last week (against Hartford),” Dawley said. “We didn’t want to take as a step back, so I think we were going to be fired up no matter who the opponent was.”

“The kid’s aren’t necessarily into who we are playing as much as you would think. Their mindset is always just next game on the schedule,” Dawley added.

The biggest key to success for UMass was its ability to create turnovers and take advantage of the miscues on the ensuing offensive possessions. The Minutewomen forced 26 UML turnovers, which led to 39 points.

“Forcing 26 turnovers and having them lead to fast breaks makes all the difference in the world,” Dawley said. “We’re a 90-foot team. If we’re able to go full court and run 90 feet we’re a great team, so the defensive effort was huge for us today.”

Usually known for her offense – and still finishing with a team-high 19 points – Cierra Dillard’s biggest impact game on the defensive end, recording a career-high seven steals, which was tied for the fifth most all-time in a single game for UMass.

“(Dillard) was remarkable on both ends of the court tonight,” Dawley said. “I can’t think of one facet of the game she didn’t dominate. It was a truly remarkable performance.”

After Dillard’s 19, Rashida Timbilla and Bria Stallworth each chipped in 15 points while Junior Alyx Stiff added a career-high 12 off the bench.

The 84-point scoring output is the second highest for the Minutewomen this season, just two points shy of their 86-point performance Dec. 2 at Bryant University.

The River Hawks also had four players score in double digits in the game with senior forward Lindsey Doucette leading the way with 16 points in addition to grabbing 10 rebounds. Kayla Gibbs and Nicole Hayner had 13 and 12 points respectively, while Asia Mitchell-Owens had 11 for UML.

Combined, the four accounted for 52 of its 58 points.

With the 2016 fast approaching, UMass now turns thier sights toward Atlantic 10 conference play, which kicks off this Saturday against Virginia Commonwealth (11-2) at home.

Dawley believes any win will give the team momentum heading into their next game, but feels like this win will be especially important in their preparation for the Rams.

“Having things you can hang your hat on and build upon helps you in the next battle,” she said. “We’re going to have our hands full on Saturday. They are strong and athletic and they are a very deep team, so it will be important to prepare for that in the next couple days.”

Tip off is set for 2 p.m. at Mullins Center.

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

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