On the back of senior forward Ashley Storey’s 18-point and 21-point performances, the UNH women’s basketball team (9-16, 6-7) defeated UMBC (8-15, 4-8) and Hartford (0-27, 0-13) in a pivotal two-game stretch this past Saturday and Wednesday.
Saturday’s win solidified UNH’s place ahead of the Retrievers in the America East standings, as they now sit in sixth place tied with UAlbany. The ‘Cats still have three America East games left to play, and they have the ability to push themselves all the way up to fourth place depending on other teams’ results.
Due to the conference standing implications, UNH knew they had to come out strong.
To start the first quarter, UMBC senior forward Lucrezia Costa was able to convert on two layup attempts to give her team an early 4-0 lead. However, UNH would quickly respond with a three-pointer from junior guard Caroline Soucy and a three-point play from junior guard Amanda Torres, giving them the two-point lead.
For the remainder of the first ten minutes, both squads went back and forth offensively. With just under two minutes remaining in the quarter, Retriever sophomore guard Paula Rubio swished a pull-up three to give here team a 12-10 lead. Torres proceeded to respond at the opposite end with two made free throws to even up the score at 12 apiece.
The first quarter came to a close when UMBC junior forward Janee’a Summers converted on a jumper from close-range, which gave her team a 16-15 lead.
The remnants of the opening half consisted of more lead changes and back-and-forth play. There was a total of eleven lead changes and six ties throughout the half. The last of the eleven came when Torres got fouled with three seconds left and drilled two of her seven free throws on the night to put the ‘Cats up 29-27 going into the break.
After playing predominantly man-to-man defense in the first half, UNH came out in the second half playing both zone along with a zone press. This caused UMBC to get flustered offensively on multiple occasions; so much so that they ended the game with 21 turnovers, compared to UNH’s eight.
Head coach Maureen Magarity thought that the defensive change was critical to her team’s eventual win.
“They were getting to the paint to easily, so we thought we would mix it up … I think we’ve done some nice things in our man defense as well, so if we can continue to mix up what we do going into March it’s only going to help.”
The success of UNH’s defense was evident immediately as they went on a 6-0 run to start the half. Torres led the run with her intense on-ball defense and two of her 15 points.
UMBC would punch back, but UNH finished the quarter strong with help from Storey, as they led 41-34 heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter started out much like the third, and UNH went on a 7-2 to give them a 12-point lead, the largest lead by either team in the game. The Retrievers, like multiple times before, made a late push to get back into the game.
This time, UMBC was able to get within three points of the ‘Cats by mustering up a 15-6 run. Summers was a major part of the comeback attempt, and she finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Despite another close call, UNH was able to stifle the Retriever run and pull out a 56-51 win.
UNH suffered a couple of two-point losses to UVM and Stony Brook in the two games prior to this one, and Torres acknowledged that those losses were infiltrating the minds of her teammates in real time while UMBC was making their run.
“It was in all of our minds. We knew that we didn’t want to feel like that again. We knew we had the game, but we just had to finish through.”
UNH continued their winning ways in Wednesday’s contest against winless Hartford, as they defeated them by a score of 64-55.
Storey, Soucy, Torres and junior forward Maggie Ahearn were all in double figures for the ‘Cats. Magarity believes that the more secondary scoring production that her team gets, the better they will do.
The opening quarter was a teeter totter offensively as both teams traded baskets. UNH got out to an early 6-3 lead, but Hartford junior guard Jada Lucas put together a 10-point quarter to give her squad a 17-14 lead going into the second.
Storey and Torres led the way on a 14-8 sequence in the first portion of the second quarter, but Lucas and company finished strong to preserve a 31-30 lead at halftime.
The Hawks scored the first four points of the second half and they seemed to have control of the play on both sides. With 7:40 left to play, UNH rallied off a 9-0 run that extended to the media timeout, giving them a 41-36 lead.
This wasn’t the best scoring stretch of the night for the Wildcats, as they went on to have a 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to put a strangle hold on the game.
Eight points from Caroline Soucy down the stretch ensured the win for the ‘Cats, and they improved their conference record to 9-16 on the season.
UNH will be back in action when they welcome UAlbany to Lundholm Gymnasium this Saturday, Feb. 22 at 12 p.m.