UMass women’s basketball’s season ends with OT loss to Fordham Thursday night

By Adam Aucoin

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(Makoto Yabusaki/Daily Collegian)

With the Massachusetts women’s basketball team down 51-43 with less than three minutes left in regulation Thursday night in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, the Minutewomen needed a spark to save their season.

The UMass (12-18, 6-12 A-10) team from a month ago might have failed to ignite that spark, but this group was determined to not go down without a fight.

On the strength of six crucial points by sophomore guard Cierra Dillard and 9-1 run, the Minutewomen tied the game at 52 after Dillard hit a jumper with 12 seconds left and Rashida Timbilla blocked Danielle Burns’ shot on the ensuing possession to force overtime and add five minutes to their season.

The success did not transfer over to the extra period though as UMass was outscored 21-10 in OT, falling 73-62 to Fordham (14-16, 8-8 A-10), eliminating it from the A-10 tournament and ending its season.

“It all comes down to hitting your shots,” Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley told reporters about the team’s play in overtime. “We did a great job getting it tied, but Fordham did a better job of putting the ball in the basket and that’s why they came away with the win.”

Dillard and freshman Bria Stallworth – UMass’ leading scorers – once against carried the load offensively for the Minutewomen, scoring 19 and 17 respectively.

The Rams saw a star performance out of Burns, who had a game-high 28 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Dawley was impressed with her ability to produce offensively and even ended up putting her best defender, Timbilla, on her to slow her down.

“When you can score on Rashida, you know you are a strong offensive player,” Dawley said. “She did a great job getting to the block and she had the ability to elevate, which helped her score over the people we had on her. Credit to her she just played phenomenal.”

Farewell to a veteran

With UMass’ season ending Thursday night, so did the Minutewomen career of a player who will go down as one the program’s best post players in history: Timbilla.

Dawley had nothing but good things to say about the player she first started coaching back in 2012.

“I’m proud of (Rashida). She will never be replaced,” Dawley said to reporters after the game. “Her leadership, her lead by example style, she is going to be missed. We spent time in the locker room not really talking about the game, but just talking about what she means to the program and we wanted to thank her for her accomplishments.”

Timbilla was visibly emotional in the postgame press conference talking about her time at UMass coming to a conclusion. She was proud of how her team fought this season.

“We lost a lot of really close games,” Timbilla said to reporters. “It’s a credit to our team and our coaches, we could have packed it in and just rode out the season and just punched in and punched out. Right now I’m feeling proud. I don’t think anyone in the league thought we would win six straight.”

“I’m just blessed right now,” Timbilla added fighting back tears. “Obviously it’s a little sad not being able to put on this jersey anymore, but I couldn’t have gone out any better way.”

A look forward

Despite their season ending, the Minutemen have a lot to be excited for the future.

Besides Timbilla and Victoria Stewart, who was injured for most of the season, every other player will be returning for the 2016-17 season.

As a whole, Dawley is excited for how the team improved throughout the season and what the future holds.

“I think this season was one where we grew as a whole and as a coach that is what you want to see,” Dawley said. “It’s been fun to watch the youngins grow. We got a ton of young players here and I am excited to see what they can do in the future.”

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