Minutewomen Top Wildcats, 70-50
DURHAM, N.H. -- Senior co-captains Jen Butler (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Nekole Smith (Ann Arbor, Mich) scored 37 combined points leading the University of Massachusetts women's basketball team to a 70-50 non-conference victory over the University of New Hampshire this afternoon at Lundholm Gymnasium.
"Today was an excellent all-around performance," said Head Coach Marnie Dacko. "I was especially pleased with our defensive effort. We pressured hard at times and forced UNH out of its offense. It was nice for these kids after what happened last year at the Mullins Center."
Butler had 19 points, 17 of them coming in the second half, to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and four steals. Smith finished with 18 points and four rebounds. Senior Ebony Pegues (Columbus, Ohio) also had 18 points, a new season-high, to go along with four assists and two steals. Sophomore Katie Nelson (Ellicott City, Md.) scored just six points, but dished out five assists and did not commit a turnover.
Butler and Smith were a combined 13-of-13 from the line. Butler has now made 14 consecutive attempts from the charity stripe against America East foes including last Wednesday's home win over Vermont.
Junior Judit Zsedenyi (Budapest, Hungary) had five points and has now made at least one three-pointer in all six games this season.
New Hampshire opened up the second half on an 8-0 run to cut the UMass lead to one, forcing the Minutewomen to burn a timeout at the 17:53 mark. Massachusetts responded with a 10-0 run of its own over the next 3:12 and cruised the rest of the way.
The Minutewomen applied defensive pressure throughout the first half, forcing 14 Wildcat turnovers. Massachusetts opened up a close game mid-way through the first half and led by as many as 12 points en route to an eight-point lead at the break. The Minutewomen played much of the first half without the services of Butler. Butler played just 4:16 due to foul trouble, but did manage two points and a rebound. Pegues led all scorers with 12 points in the half on 5-of-9 shooting. She added four rebounds and two assists. Smith had 11 points. UMass shot .438 (14-32) in the half, while holding the Wildcats to a .364 (8-22) clip from the field.
"Nekole and Ebony really stepped up and showed their senior leadership when Jen had to sit," said Dacko. "You can see how things are coming together for us the way that the team was able to rally around Jen's early departure."
Massachusetts was out-rebounded 33-28, but out-shot the Wildcats, .456 (26-57) to .391 (18-46). Massachusetts forced 26 New Hampshire turnovers, while only committing 11 of its own. UMass also tallied 13 steals.
New Hampshire had four players score in double-figures. Aubrey Danen and Maren Matthias had 11 points apiece, while Lindsay Adams and Colleen Mullen each had 10.
With the win, Massachusetts improves to 5-1 overall, its best start since the 1988-89 team also started 5-1.
The Minutewomen travel to Kingston, R.I., for a rare early-season conference tilt with the University of Rhode Island on Monday, Nov. 9. Tip-off at the new Ryan Center is slated for 5:30 p.m. URI is 6-0.