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 hangs close with A-10 leaders Saint Joseph’s

Massive free throw discrepancy proves to be the difference
Devin Lippman
Daily Collegian (2024)

While just a moral victory, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team gave one of its best performances of the season against Saint Joseph’s, the top team in the Atlantic 10. UMass (3-20, 1-10 A-10) dropped its ninth straight game, losing 77-67, but its loss on Saturday was not due to the fault of its offensive effort, but the discrepancy in fouls committed and free throws taken.

What hurt the Minutewomen against St. Joe’s (21-2, 10-1 A-10) was a problem that has bit them in the past: struggling to defend without fouling. There was a large gap between the two squads in the number of fouls committed and number of free throws taken, with the Minutewomen committing 23 personal fouls compared to 13 from their opponent. At halftime, UMass had taken one free throw which it missed, while the Hawks were a perfect 12-of-12 from the charity stripe, a 12-point swing in a game where at the half, the Minutewomen were down only four.

As the game progressed into its later stages and UMass began to foul with hopes that St. Joe’s would miss at the line and give it a chance to tie the game back up, the Hawks ended up taking 16 fourth quarter free throws, of which they hit 12. All in all, St. Joe’s went 24-of-28 from the free throw line compared to 1-of-3 from the Minutewomen, a 23 point difference in a game that the Hawks ultimately won by 10.

“A lot of fouling,” head coach Mike Leflar said on what he saw from his defense Saturday. “… six or eight maybe came in the last minute or two when we were fouling on purpose, but all those fouls add up … there were times there where we’re tired, or we’re not quite engaged, we lose it a little bit mentally, and we foul. And it might be the third foul of the quarter, but then we’re one closer to the fifth foul, or we reach because we think, ‘oh I can get this steal,’ and it’s a foul … that’s still an Achilles heel of ours.”

The Minutewomen were on fire from the floor after shooting 5-of-14 in the opening quarter, with their offensive prowess peaking in the second quarter as they went 9-of-10 from the floor and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Alexsia Rose went into another gear on Saturday, dropping a career-high 22 points on the Hawks on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent on 3-pointers, which she made two of. As a whole, UMass shot 51.8 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point land, much above its season averages of 39.5 percent and 29.1 percent respectively.

It wasn’t just Rose who preformed well; three Minutewomen in addition to Rose were in double figures on Saturday afternoon. Stefanie Kulesza and Kristin Williams each had 10 points, while Bre Bellamy was second on the team in scoring with 12. Six of the eight players who took shots for UMass on Saturday shot 50 percent from the field or better.

“There were times where we executed offense [until] the end and didn’t just take the first shot available, we did a little bit of that and those are the possessions I’d like to have back,” Leflar said. “As we grow from this, we can understand that by running the offense through [to the end], we got better looks, broke down the defense better, and obviously I think [Rose] had such a huge hand in that, her ability to stay on the floor for as long she did, created a lot for herself and her teammates which was really nice to see.”

For the Hawks, it was the Talya Brugler show on Saturday afternoon, dropping 30 points, more than double the amount of points of any of her teammates, with the next highest being Mackenzie Smith with 14. Brugler benefited the most from the fouls committed by the Minutewomen, as she found herself at the charity stripe 11 times throughout the contest, hitting nine. Seven of the eight players who saw the floor for Saint Joseph’s on Saturday made at least two free throws.

UMass is next in action on Wednesday, Feb. 7, taking on Duquesne at the Mullins Center at 6 p.m. It’ll be band, cheer and dance team night, as well as pride night. The game can be viewed on NESN.

“I know I’ve [kind of] said we’ve hit the reset button a couple of times this conference season, but I feel like [Saturday] may be a little different … walking into the locker room after the game, maybe our players finally understood that they should be proud of how we played,” Leflar said.

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

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