UMass women’s basketball reacts to first conference win, ready to repeat success against Dayton Wednesday

By Jamie Cushman

(The UMass women's basketball team celebrates after defeating St. Bonaventure. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)
(The UMass women’s basketball team celebrates after defeating St. Bonaventure. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

A lot transpired over the 44 days since the Massachusetts women’s basketball team walked into a winning locker room, including six presidential debates and a new Kanye West album. After losing 11-straight games to open up conference play, UMass (7-17, 1-11 Atlantic 10) upset St. Bonaventure 69-60 Saturday for its first win since Jan. 2.

“It was definitely a relief,” said senior forward Rashida Timbilla. “I feel like we’ve been so close in a couple different conference games where we could have won the game, but we couldn’t pull it out in the end, but now that we have one, it’s such a big relief.”

Besides helping to elevate the Minutewomen in the standings, this win also provided the team with a much needed confidence boost. Losing that many games in a row can wear on a player, and Saturday’s win reminded UMass what winning feels like.

“Obviously it elevates (our confidence) quite a bit I think,” Timbilla said. “That’s sometimes hard, to go into the locker room after a close loss, back-to-back-to-back games.

Now that the Minutewomen has their first conference victory under their belt, they can set their sights on improving the team’s conference standing before the end of the season.

UMass still have the opportunity to improve their seeding in the conference tournament with five games remaining before it begins March 2 in Richmond, Virginia.

The next chance to gain ground on other members of the A-10 comes Wednesday when UMass hosts Dayton (13-10, 6-6 A-10).

The Flyers lost their previous game against George Washington, so the Minutewomen will finally enter a game with more momentum than their opponents for the first time since the turn of the calendar year.

When asked what was the key to success against the Bonnies, freshman guard Bria Stallworth had just one word to say.

“Turnovers,” Stallworth said, “We had five, that’s huge. I don’t know if we’ve had that few of turnovers at all this season.”

Timbilla echoed her teammate’s sentiment regarding the importance of turnovers to the team’s success going forward.

“I think we’ve got to keep taking care of the ball, limiting our mistakes and making sure we turn the other team over and make them make a lot of mistakes,” Timbilla said.

Sophomore guard Cierra Dillard, who lead the Minutewomen with 20 points in the win over St. Bonaventure, feels UMass’ fast break was a major part of the win, and something it will need more of for the remainder of the regular season.

“At the beginning of the game and the end of the game, we took the run and made it our game and we ran on them,” Dillard said. “I think our fast break is one of the good ones in the conference and we just kept running on them, moving the ball.”

The Minutewomen also got some much-needed stops down the stretch, something they didn’t to do a couple weeks earlier against Duquesne.

“Our defense picked up. We had three or four steals to end the fourth quarter, so our defense became our offense, and I think that’s what we need to do with the next five games,” Dillard said.

UMass will be looking for its second straight win on Wednesday when the team hosts the Flyers. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected]