Minutewomen fall to VCU in Atlantic 10 opener

By Tom Mulherin

Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian
Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team didn’t start the new year as well as it hoped Saturday as its first Atlantic 10 Conference matchup of the season ended with a 74-66 loss to Virginia Commonwealth at Mullins Center.

The loss marked UMass’ (6-7, 0-1 A-10) first loss in nearly two weeks and snapped a three-game winning streak.

The Minutewomen came out of the gate hot scoring 14 unanswered points during the first quarter, however the Rams (12-2, 1-0 A-10) quickly gained traction behind aggressive rebounds on the offensive end to help cut its deficit to one point by halftime.

“I think what broke our backs was boxing out,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said. “They got a lot of late-clock shots and offensive rebounds that we should have controlled a little bit better…We got to do a better job boxing out.”

With three minutes, 59 seconds left in the third quarter, VCU regained a lead at 45-43 after Curteeona Brelove made a layup, as the Rams wouldn’t forfeit the lead for the rest of the game. The Minutewomen trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half.

After UMass surrendered 13 offensive rebounds that resulted in 15-second-chance points, Dawley credited a smaller lineup as the one of the key components in the loss.

“We went with a smaller lineup so that we could attack a little more, but then that small lineup hurt us in terms of rebounding,” Dawley said. “We’ve got great scoring from the perimeter, but we’ve got to have a more balanced attack. We have to get our bigs more involved in the offense.”

Forward Adaeze Alaeze led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Isis Thorpe added 15 points of her own for VCU.

Cierra Dillard scored 17 points for the Minutewomen while Alyssa Lawrence added 10, however they struggled to find rhythm once leading scoring Bria Stallworth picked up her fourth midway into the third quarter.

“It was huge,” Dawley said having to put Stallworth on the bench. “She played 24 minutes instead of 38, so that hurts. She struggled from the perimeter; she was two-for-12. I think that the foul situation hurt her confidence and the lack of confidence hurt her shooting.”

After facing a 14-point deficit with 2:10 remaining in the game, Dillard started a 8-0 run in just 38 seconds that started from an and-one layup, followed by a five-point play where Stallworth hit a 3-pointer and Rashida Timbilla knocked down a pair of free throws after getting fouled on the play. The comeback attempt never turned into anything more as the closest UMass came was six points.

“I think we have more fight then we’ve ever had,” Dawley said. “That’s our first five-point play. It shows we have more fight than we’ve had in the past.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]