UMass women’s basketball’s comeback falls short against Saint Joe’s

By Jamie Cushman

Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian

For the second straight game, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team found itself in a hole late in the game, mounted a comeback, but fell short as it lost to Saint Joseph’s Wednesday night 62-58.

The loss to the Hawks (7-7, 1-1 A-10) in the finale of a five-game home stand shared many of the same characteristics of the Minutewomen’s defeat to Virginia Commonwealth four days earlier.

UMass coach Sharon Dawley identified rebounding and the Minutewomen’s inability to box out as critical flaws once again. UMass was outrebounded 44-33 Wednesday.

“The rebounding margin really killed us,” Dawley said. “As well I think we missed a ton of inside shots, or bunnies as we call them.”

Trailing by one point heading into the final quarter, the Minutewomen struggled to find their shot to open the frame and trailed by as many as eight points with less than four minutes to play before going on a run in the final minutes of the game.

With less than a minute to go, UMass junior guard Alyx Stiff appeared ready to set a pick for ball handler Cierra Dillard, but Stiff instead snuck away behind the 3-point arc and drilled the Minutewomen’s only shot from long range on the night, bringing the Hawks lead down to 60-58.

On the following possession, Hawks senior forward Sarah Fairbanks drove to the hoop, but her shot was blocked by senior forward Rashida Timbilla and sophomore Alyssa Lawrence grabbed the rebound, setting the Minutewomen into transition with 20 seconds remaining.

But UMass couldn’t take advantage of the possession as Lawrence failed to haul in a pass from sophomore guard Leah McDerment, turning the ball over with 11 seconds to play.

After a pair of fouls from Dillard to put the Hawks in the bonus, senior guard Ciara Andrews made both free throws to put the game out of reach as Saint Joe’s took a two-possession lead with just five seconds left in the game.

Like against VCU, the Minutewomen once again got off to good start, jumping out to an early 23-14 lead with a minute left in the first quarter before a 3-pointer from Saint Joe’s junior guard Kathlee Fitzpatrick knocked the UMass lead down to six to end the first frame.

The Hawks then opened the lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Minutewomen 20-10 behind contributions from five different players on offense. The attack was led by Cierra Andrews and Alyssa Monaghan, who both contributed six points in the quarter.

UMass responded well in the second half and outscored the Hawks 13 to 10 in the third quarter, diminishing the deficit to just one point at the start of the fourth.

Saint Joe’s was spurred by second chance opportunities Wednesday as it tallied 16 offensive rebounds compared to UMass’ nine.

“I really thought it was offensive rebounds was what got us,” Dawley said. “I think we were able to defend their sets pretty well.”

Sophomore forward Adashia Franklyn and Andrews led the Hawks in scoring with 12 points each, while Franklyn was more efficient with her offense, shooting 5-of-9 from the field.

Dawley was pleased with her team’s ability to shut down Fitzpatrick (nine points per game), limiting her to six points Wednesday, but she felt the Minutewomen needed to do a better job against Andrews.

UMass’ offense was once again powered by freshman guard Bria Stallworth, who led the team with 12 points and five assists while Dillard chipped in 11 points. Timbilla led the team with 11 rebounds.

The Minutewomen will be on the road for the first time in over a month as the team travels to Olean, New York this weekend to face St. Bonaventure for the first of two meetings between the two A-10 teams this season.

Sunday’s tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]