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 wins first game of 2024, 76-66

Minutewomen prevail in second half
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team topped Dayton 76-66 in a head-to-head conference battle on Tuesday evening.

“I never like to use the word deserves,” head coach Mike Leflar said. “But … I wanted them to come out with a result and we got it.

After a back-and-forth first half, the Minutewomen (3-11, 1-1 Atlantic 10) went into halftime tied 32-32  with the Flyers (6-8, 0-3 A-10). A missed inside floater by Stefanie Kulesza translated to second chance points, with Kulesza grabbing her own miss and putting UMass up by two early.

Scoring didn’t stop here for UMass. Alexsia Rose came scored 30 seconds later, receiving the ball from Bre Bellamy outside the arc and hitting a 3-pointer to add to the Minutewomens lead. Dayton responded with two points from the paint, along with a free throw for a 3-point play, but the Minutewomen weren’t quite done yet.

Kristin Williams tossed in a 3 from deep, bouncing back and giving UMass a comfortable lead once again. Strong play didn’t stop until the final whistle, resulting in a hard-fought A-10 win for UMass.

Williams topped the score sheet for UMass, totaling 15 points for the day. Not far behind was offensive force Lilly Taulelei with 14 points, tying a personal best, and Kulesza with 13 points and eight rebounds. The trio accounted for more than half of the winning total, but the ball saw almost every player on the court for the Minutewomen.

“I’m really proud of them,” Leflar remarked. “…Proud of everyone who went in and made a difference, right down the roster, everyone contributed.”

UMass showed no signs of selfishness. 21 points were scored by the bench Tuesday, showing the Minutewomen’s ability to truly utilize all their assets. Lilly Ferguson chipped in seven points in the win, and Tori Hyduke followed with seven points as well.

“It was a really great overall team win,” Leflar said. “For us to get off on the right foot at home in conference, I’m really proud of that.”

Small moments seemed to be the difference between UMass and Dayton.

A steal caused by Rose at the end of the second quarter was passed downward to Ferguson with seconds left on the clock. Ferguson went up with the ball and into the hoop it went. This fast break lay put the teams tied going into the third. Although a small point in the grand scheme of things, plays like this made up the win. Similarly, Dallas Pierce scored right when it was needed. Down 26-19 early in the first quarter, Pierce hit a 3 to close the gap.

“[The players] understand whether they play four minutes or 34 minutes, they can affect the outcome,” Leflar said.

The first quarter start was just a glimpse at what was to come for UMass. Kulesza started off strong with two from down low and a jump shot from outside the painted area doubled the score. The small glimmer of momentum only continued as the game went on.

“I’m going to do whatever coach Leflar needs me to do and whatever is going to make us successful,” Kulesza said post-game.

Dayton was held scoreless four minutes and 41 seconds into the fourth, with the Minutewomen persevering for their first conference win with strong defense. The Minutewomen showed defensive determination, limiting the Flyers inside the paint offensively. Dayton grabbed only six offensive rebounds for just five seconds chance points.

“Rebounding effort is something we talk about each game,” Leflar said. “It’s something we watch individually and as a group and to hold a team like Dayton to six offensive rebounds was really important.”

“[Tuesday] we were able to play for 40 minutes … and that’s growth right there,” Leflar said.

The Minutewomen return to the Mullins Center on Saturday, Jan 6. at 1 p.m. where they face the reigning A-10 champions, Saint Louis.

Lucy Postera can be reached at [email protected] or followed on twitter @LucyPostera.

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