Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass secures second win against UMass Lowell

Minutewomen level up play coming off nine game losing streak
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team defeated regional rival UMass Lowell 64-52 on Sunday, in an at-home contest. After a series of road losses, the Minutewomen (2-9) came ready to play, taking home their second win of the year.

“We all wanted it really badly,” head coach Mike Leflar said of the win.

Kristin Williams paved the way for the Minutewomen, scoring 19, a personal best. With a new roster, the Minutewomen have constantly had a handful of scorers, and that proved itself to be true Sunday. Freshman Dallas Pierce set a new scoring high, chipping in 10, and Lilly Taulelei and Stefanie Kulesza followed in suit, each adding eight. UMass showed no selfish play, with seven out of nine players who saw the floor contributing to its point total.

“[Pierce] and [Williams] come into practice every day and work hard,” Kulesza said. “It’s really showing on the court, and it definitely showed [Sunday] with the way that they played.”

Taulelei followed with praise, stating she was “really proud” of Williams’ play.

After 25 days on the road, the Minutewomen came hungry for a win. After a slow first half, UMass picked up the pace in the second, outscoring the River Hawks (0-9) 34-28 and snagging 19 rebounds to their 13. The Minutewomen widened the gap, playing fast and not allowing easy transition points.

Defensive speed has been an area of improvement for UMass this season, and the bar was set high against UMass Lowell. Allowing only four points from the River Hawks transition offense, it was a stark improvement for UMass from its game against Boston College. The Minutewomen chipped in 16 points on the fastbreak, outscoring and outplaying UMass Lowell in this area.

“Regardless of who the opponent was going to be [Sunday], [transition defense] was going to be a big key,” Leflar said of his gameplan. “It’s about us getting back, getting set, and making teams earn their points.”

“We can’t beat ourselves,” Leflar said regarding defensive effort. “If teams make tough shots or make contested shots I get that but we can’t give up easy ones in transition.”

UMass came into the game with a size advantage, and took advantage in the paint. Post players had a field day, scoring 48 points in the painted area, 75 percent of the team’s total points.

Growth has been on the forefront of the Minutewomens minds while the three returning players, six transfers and four freshmen navigate a new team, and a new dynamic. Six-foot-three-inch freshman Taulelei has shown constant improvement, going from little playing time to steady scoring. Taulelei is resilient down low, scoring over 10 in UMass’ past three contests, and averaging 7.5 points.

“It’s my first year playing against some really big competition,” Taulelei said. “I’m just trying to keep it simple and do my job.”

Alexsia Rose, a new addition through the transfer portal, saw a lot of time on Sunday and proved herself a competitor. She added five points, but more importantly pushed her teammates to a new level with her speed and athleticism.

“[Rose] brings a different pace to us when we’re out there,” Leflar said. “[Rose] is someone who looks to get her teammates involved so it was nice to see her out there.”

Coming off a nine-game losing streak, the Minutewomen played with desperation, and were awarded with the win.

“They deserved the win [Sunday],” Leflar said, “I was really proud of them and happy for them.”

The Minutewomen return to the Mullins Center on Wednesday Dec. 20 when they face UAlbany at 12 p.m.

Lucy Postera can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter @lucypostera.

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