DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Led by four double-digit scorers, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth withstood Eastern Connecticut's balanced offense in the Little East Conference (LEC) semifinal, 76-63, on Friday night at the Tripp Athletic Center. With the postseason victory, the squad advances to just their second tournament championship in program history.
Score: UMass Dartmouth 76, Eastern Connecticut 63
Records: UMass Dartmouth 24-3, 14-0 LEC | Eastern Connecticut 12-15, 8-6 LEC
How it Happened
Senior Alicia Kutil's (Franklin, Mass.) led the charge with her 12th double-double of the season on 22 points and 15 rebounds. Classmate Leah Douty's (Framingham, Mass.) added 17 to the scoring, drilling a pair of three-pointers as part of her 6-of-8 shooting (75%).
For the visitors, sophomore Julie Jordan (Sterling, Conn.) registered a double-double on 12 points and 10 boards. Her classmate, Mya Villard (Cromwell, Conn.), matched her front court opponent Kutil with 22 points of her own on 9-of-14 efficiency (64.3%).
Each side struggled out of the gate, with the Corsairs and Warriors shooting lowly percentages of just 16.7 and 33.3, respectively. Douty supplied the offense with five in the early going, helping provide the 11-9 Corsair cushion at the end of the first.
Douty then opened the second quarter continuing her offensive pace, taking the hand-off from junior Jamie Williams (Lone Tree, Colo.) and drilling the mid-range jumper. Sophomore Kayla McMahon (Hanover, Mass.) contributed to the scoring on the next trip down the floor as her three-pointer from the right wing was set up by the cross-court pass from senior Chelsea Houlihan (Wolcott, Conn.). The Warriors brought it back to a four-point game at 16-12 via Villard's up-and-under move below the basket deeked out Kutil to finish the lefty layup. With three minutes to go, sophomore Ashley Brown (Fairhaven, Mass.) went on a personal hot streak, encoring her made basket with a steal on the defensive end and finishing the field goal through contact for the and-one. Warrior junior Kelsey Santagata (Stamford, Conn.) paired up with Villard to each pour in a bucket to cut into the deficit, but had been answered by another McMahon three with thirty seconds remaining in the half.
Eastern Connecticut responded with high energy out of the break, scoring six straight to cut the score to 40-33 on a run led by Santagata, Villard, and sophomore Sabrina LeMere (North Branford, Conn.). After a Corsair timeout, the hosts regained their composure; Douty utilized a wraparound pass to find Kutil on the low-block to answer a Santagata three. Visiting senior Kelly Reardon (Holyoke, Mass.) grabbed an offensive rebound with three minutes on the clock, scooping a pass to Villard for an uncontested layup to bring the game to 48-40. In the final fourt-five seconds of the penultimate frame, Douty converted on a layup through the hard foul to put the Corsairs back up by eight.
The Warriors clawed their way throughout the fourth with an efficient 50% shooting, keeping the contest within ten, but UMass Dartmouth maintained its fast-paced offense to wear out the Eastern Connecticut squad that limited its rotation to primarily six players. The visitors traded baskets with the Corsairs but could not overcome their shooting woes – 35.5% on the evening – to close the gap.
Inside the Numbers
- With the win, the Corsairs advance to just their second Little East Conference final in program-history, with the last coming in 2013 against Southern Maine.
- Tomorrow marks the first championship appearance under head coach Matt Ducharme.
- In the season-series against East Conn. the Corsairs swept both games with an 83-75 margin January 10th and 78-62-win February 10th.
- The Corsairs received 12 points from its reserves, while that of the Warriors' was shut out.
- While UMass Dartmouth committed 17 turnovers to Eastern Connecticut's 14, the Corsairs capitalized for 17 points off opponent miscues while the Warriors only notched five in such situations.
- The Blue and Gold crashed the boards as a unit, with eight different members corralling multiple missed shots.
UMass Dartmouth will return to action at 4pm on Saturday, Feb. 24, when the top-seeded Corsairs host second-seeded UMass Boston in the championship game of the 2018 Little East Conference Women's Basketball Championship tournament.