This past Saturday afternoon, the UNH women’s basketball team (7-14, 4-5) fell back under the .500 mark in America East play after suffering a 66-53 loss to the UMass Lowell Riverhawks.
Early in the contest, each team had difficulty developing any kind of offensive rhythm due to turnovers and sloppy play. Each team finished the game with 26 turnovers, which is a season high for both squads. Much of it can be attributed to the defensive pressure that both teams applied early in the game, but some of it was simply bad play from both sides.
Despite the sloppy play, UNH was able to mount a four-point lead on the back of senior forward Ashley Storey to start the first quarter, but it was quickly eliminated by the Riverhawks. With 4:08 to go in the frame, UMass Lowell junior forward Tiahna Sears hit a mid-range jumper to close the gap to 10-8, and that basket prompted 10 unanswered points from the Riverhawks. The quarter ended with the Wildcats trailing 18-11.
UMass Lowell kept their foot on the gas heading into the second ten minutes of the game, as they pushed their lead up to 11 with just over four minutes remaining in the half. They were able to utilize a 1-4 set on offense to get one-on-one post-ups and UNH struggled to counteract this action throughout the first half according to Wildcat head coach Maureen Magarity.
“We had to address our ball screen coverage defensively… but they still seemed to just get in there and I think their post players work hard, they do their work early. But they got too many touches inside on the block for sure.”
Magarity added that even though her team knew what was coming, they still had a hard time stopping the opposition.
“I think Ivy did a really nice job on the block…but it’s tough when you play someone for a second time. You scout, you game plan, but you have to go out there a do it. I thought (UMass Lowell) did a good job of executing that with their screens and their cuts.”
Before the break, Sears and Riverhawk senior forward Bri Stiers notched 10 and nine points respectively, and UMass Lowell took a 30-26 lead into halftime after a short scoring burst from UNH.
Coming out of the locker-room, UNH displayed much more energy on both sides of the court. However, this energy didn’t help put a dent in the Riverhawk lead. The Wildcats might have had a little too much energy, as they committed the first five fouls of the third quarter. Silly fouls and six early turnovers helped UMass Lowell inch their lead back up to nine (46-37) by the end of the third quarter.
UMass Lowell sophomore guard Kharis Idom was the star of the third quarter. She was able to lead her squad in the quarter with seven points, as she hit a tough three from the right corner and proceeded to follow it with two layups. She did have three turnovers after the half, but UNH was not able to capitalize on them. Wildcats senior guard Caroline Soucy led her team with four points in the quarter.
The fourth quarter mirrored the third in the fact that UNH couldn’t slow down Idom. For much of the period, the sophomore played with an untied right shoe, but it didn’t affect her game in the slightest. She converted on an elbow jumper with 7:37 to go in the game, and then a turnover by Storey on the other end allowed Idom to swish a three-point attempt on the ensuing Riverhawk possession.
Idom’s ability to draw fouls plagued the Wildcats in a big way during the second half, as she reached the foul line six times, resulting in 12 foul shots, eight of which she converted.
Two of these foul shots came off a fast break layup attempt with 30 seconds left in the game, and Idom stuck both to seal the 66-53 win for the Riverhawks.
Soucy (16 points) and Storey (15 points) led the scoring effort for the ‘Cats, but their supporting cast struggled to muster up any reliable production.
There were multiple questionable calls by the referees down the stretch in the fourth quarter, including the call on junior guard Amanda Torres that sent her to the bench with her fifth foul. Rather than placing the blame on the officials, Torres thought she could have done a better job herself.
“They were definitely a little bit tougher than what we’ve had, but I think we should have done a better job adjusting to it, especially personally.”
The Wildcats now have a week off until they face Stony Brook on Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. The Seawolves are 9-0 in America East play and have been victorious in their last 18 games. It will be a tough test for UNH, and they will use the week to prepare to try and avenge their 53-44 loss to the Seawolves on Jan. 11.