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 women’s basketball falls in seventh straight game

Third quarter woes proves too much to overcome
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

In a clash between last season’s Atlantic 10 regular season co-champions, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team continued its road losing streak, its record falling to 0-10 away from the Mullins center. Rhode Island and its No. 15 defense were on full display throughout the contest on Saturday afternoon, specifically in the third quarter.

Turnovers in the third block of 10 minutes proved to be the death blow to UMass (3-18, 1-8 A-10), with it committing nine turnovers in the quarter alone, finishing with 23 total turnovers as the clock bled zero. Both URI (14-8, 6-3 A-10) and the Minutewomen shot poorly from the field in the third, with both shooting under 40 percent as UMass shot at 30 and the Rams at 37.5, but it was Rhode Island who benefited most from the proverbial track meet. It ended the quarter up by 13, a margin that would essentially hold steady through the final 10 minutes, and the Minutewomen walked away with a 63-48 loss.

“I was just proud of our effort, and I’m not going to be tired of telling our team that after games like this, because it’s important,” head coach Mike Leflar said. “From the talent perspective and when they’re clicking, [Rhode Island is] right up there, arguably, best team in teh conference … we fought, and the last time I felt like this was after the Richmond game where we went down to Richmond and played really hard … I hope applauding that effort [Saturday] after URI helps us take a little bit of a step forward.”

What stunted UMass in the third quarter was a full court press from URI that it had been utilizing for much of the game. Coming out of the break, the Rams stuffed four defenders in the backcourt and sent an immediate double to whoever got the inbound. With the Minutewomen attempting to run the fast break off URI misses to break the press, the Rams snagged four of their eventual 13 offensive rebounds in the quarter leading to six second chance points, two more than UMass had for the game.

“[The third quarter] was [us] moving back into old habits,” Leflar said. “There were times when Rhode Island had four defenders in the backcourt, we could’ve just thrown it over and had a 3-on-1. Those are the moments where probably doubt creeps in, and instead of being aggressive we get really really passive. Did [Rhode Island] dial it up a little more, were they more aggressive to start the third quarter? I think they were, but I also think that led to us being more passive … you play teams that press, you throw it over the top one or two times, you get a layup, they’re out of the press …”

Stefanie Kulesza finished as the team’s leading scorer, notching 15 points in the scorers sheet, nine of which came in the fourth quarter. She accounted for 64.3 percent of UMass’ scoring in the final frame, as it scored 14 points as a whole. Kulesza was almost the inverse of Bre Bellamy, as she finished a perfect 3-of-3 from the field in the final 10 minutes, while Bellamy finished the first half perfect from the floor, also 3-of-3. Kulesza added six rebounds, four steals and an assist to her final line.

Heading into the break down by five, the Minutewomen had found ease scoring in the mid-range or from 3-point territory in the first 20 minutes. With the Rams playing drop coverage on screens, Bellamy and Alexsia Rose both benefited greatly as Rose pulled up for foul line and elbow jumpers, while Bellamy popped out beyond the arc and cashed a combined two 3’s in quarters one and two.

Both Bellamy and Rose finished the half as the leading scorers with eight points a piece. That would be the end of Bellamy’s scoring, finishing with four rebounds, a block and an assist in addition to her eight points. Rose finished with 11 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

“Getting [Rose] involved in ball screens is really really important for us … while there are times that we attack it very well, it’s just inconsistent, I hate to say ‘we’re not there yet,’ but it’s just not second nature for us to attack those coverages, and that’s why we just keep seeing the same coverages over and over,” Leflar said. “I really appreciated [Bellamy’s] effort [Saturday], and for her to see the ball go in the basket, especially in that first half, that was the [Bellamy] that I hope can finish out the season and honestly finish out her career on a note like that.”

UMass is next in action on Wednesday, Jan. 31, taking on La Salle at home. It is field trip day, as hundreds of elementary school students will flood the seats of the Mullins Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m., and the game is available to watch on ESPN+.

“When you do lose, and team’s go on runs, you start looking up at the scoreboard and probably thinking ‘here we go again,'” Leflar said. “I acknowledge these feelings … it’s hard to overcome that. Getting a consistent effort and performance from [Bellamy] every night, you hope that is an example for the person next to her … it trickles down … that’s how that stuff starts.”

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.

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