UMass women’s basketball snaps four-game losing streak with win over Bryant

By Adam Aucoin

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

After the Massachusetts women’s basketball team lost leading scorer Kim Pierre-Louis to graduation last spring, a massive hole was left regarding who would put points on the board for a promising Minutewomen team.

At the beginning of this season, coach Sharon Dawley called for a more balanced offensive approach to make up for that void left by Pierre-Louis.

Games like the one against Bryant (2-4) Wednesday are exactly what she was hoping for.

UMass (2-4) produced its highest scoring output of the season as they beat the Bulldogs 86-69 Wednesday night in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

The Minutewomen looked like a completely different team than the one that dropped two games this past weekend at the Omni Hotels Classic, each by 27 points.

During this contest, Dawley thought her team succeeded in all aspects of the game.

“We really clicked offensively in the game and had some great performances,” Dawley said. “On the defensive side we played together as a unit and we were able to change up the defense often. Our ladies did a great job executing what we’ve been teaching when we haven’t had too much time to work on it, so I’m proud of how they played tonight.”

The balanced UMass offensive attack led to four players scoring in double-digits, with sophomore guard Cierra Dillard leading the team with 22 points on the day. Forward Alyssa Lawrence had 20 points off the bench, while sophomores Maggie Mulligan and Leah McDerment had 14 and 11 points, respectively.

Dawley has been harping on getting points from many different players throughout the season.

“It’s critical,” she said. “When only one person is producing offensively, you can’t go very far with that. We need a balanced attack to be a quality team and having four players in double figures is great.”

It was Lawrence’s performance in particular that stood out. Removed from her regular starting forward position, the redshirt sophomore came off the bench and gave an instant boost to the offense in that role.

Her 20 points were a career high, and she contributed across the stat sheet compiling four rebounds and two steals as well.

Dawley was very impressed with Lawrence’s performance in the victory.

“She (Lawrence) was a monster,” Dawley said. “She’s pretty hard to defend when she’s going at her top speed and she was at that speed tonight. She’s just going to keep getting better and better, so I’m excited to see what she can do.”

A big advantage in the game came with the Minutewomen’s ability to score inside. UMass held a 48-24 advantage in points in the paint against Bryant.

Controlling the paint on the road is something Dawley thought was key in the wining effort.

“When you live and die by the three, these road games are going to be tough. Having more than half our points come inside the paint gives us comfort as a coaching staff that if we can do that on a regular basis, we will be alright,” Dawley said.

The Bulldogs kept the score close for most of the game until the Minutewomen pulled away late in the fourth quarter.

Bryant had a very balanced scoring output as well, with three players hitting double digits in the game. Senior guard Tiersa Winder led the team with 23 points and Breanna Rucker chipped in 13, while Ivory Bailey scored 10 points.

Dawley is hoping the win against the Bulldogs will give the team some confidence going forward.

“It’s great going into a week off,” she said. “We have some things we need to install in the next week and perfect, but it’s great to get big win as we try to prepare for our next game.”

UMass will be in action next Wednesday when it takes on Hofstra at Mullins Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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