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 loses championship rematch to Saint Louis, 79-75

Turnovers and fouls cost the Minutewomen their redemption
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

In a rematch of last year’s Atlantic 10 championship game, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team found itself ahead of Saint Louis for most of the game. Kyla McMakin hit one of her three 3-pointers to give the Billikens (6-10, 1-2 A-10) their first lead since the first quarter early in the final frame, and it started a game of back-and-forth, with seven out of the nine total lead changes coming in the fourth quarter.

With 12 seconds left, UMass (3-12, 1-2 Atlantic 10) inbounded the ball to Alexsia Rose who drove the ball all the way to the baseline and found freshman Lilly Taulelei under the basket with a layup to tie it. However, the shot rolled off the rim into the hands of Saint Louis who got fouled and secured the game on the free throw line, eventually winning 79-75.

“I just felt like we let that one slip through our fingers, and credit to St. Louis for making plays down the stretch, but I liked how we came out of the gates … I think there were times where we’re really in control of the game and unfortunately, just some self-inflicted errors [Saint Louis] took advantage of,” head coach Mike Leflar said.

On the Billiken side of things, McMakin, who, in last year’s conference championship game against the Minutewomen had 27 points, did that again in Saturday’s contest scoring another 27 points, and eclipsed 2,500 points for her career becoming just the 44th player to do so.

“I think the most impressive thing is just her leadership … She’s lifting thousands of pounds of leadership on our team,” Billiken head coach Rebecca Tillet said about McMakin. “So, she’s doing that and then producing as well on the court to help us be successful. I’m just really happy for her that all of her leadership efforts paid off for our team [Saturday].”

On the UMass side of things, Rose came into her own with an impressive 18 points and nine assists leading her team to the cusp of a win. Both those marks are career highs for her. Beyond the stat sheet, Rose played with a lot of passion igniting a fire under a struggling Minutewomen team.

“I think we’re trying to find our identity as a team,” Rose said. “We want to be that greedy team, that team that plays with passion and shows emotion, but controllably … We’re a team that thrives off momentum and passion helps with that. I think the history between UMass and Saint Louis played a part in it too.”

Additionally, Stefanie Kulesza and Kristin Williams continued their scoring with 18 and 17 points respectively, with Kulesza adding six rebounds as well. The two of them came out firing to start the game each hitting 3-pointers to give themselves an early lead that they would maintain for three quarters.

“[Rose, Williams, Kulesza], I thought their production, their numbers, you know, outstanding. Boy, I would love for them to be able to match that every single game,” Leflar said.

On the negative side of things, the Minutewomen had 13 turnovers and 23 total fouls. 27 of Saint Louis’ points came from the charity stripe and 13 of its points came off turnovers.

“I thought we protected the ball well against their pressure. I just think there were some timely ones … So many people, so many coaches say you have to play in close games to learn how to win close games. Unfortunately, we learned that lesson the hard way [Saturday],” Leflar said.

UMass now turns its attention to the Richmond Spiders on Wednesday Jan. 10 with tip off slated for 11 a.m in Virginia. The game can be viewed on ESPN+

Owen Shelffo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @owen_shelffo.

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