Women’s basketball: Rhode Island keeps UMass at bay

  • UMass freshman Stefanie Kulesza (44) holds possession while being defended by Rhode Island’s Yanni Hendley (5) during Atlantic 10 action Wednesday night at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer 
Published: 1/26/2022 8:56:30 PM
Modified: 1/26/2022 8:55:13 PM

AMHERST – With three full days to prepare and home court advantage, the UMass women’s basketball team was prepped and ready for its rematch against Atlantic 10 rival Rhode Island. 

After an even start, the visiting Rams took the lead and never relinquished it, cruising to a 60-44 win Wednesday night at the Mullins Center. It was Rhode Island’s second victory against UMass in 10 days. 

Rhode Island’s win was a group effort, with four different players scoring in the double digits. The Rams were led by Emmanuelle Tahane with 18 points, followed by Dolly Cairns and Marie-Paule Foppossi with 14 points each.

UMass’ Sam Breen was held to just six points and six rebounds. The Minutewomen were led by Ber’Nyah Mayo with 14 points and six boards and Makennah White with 12 points.

Going into the contest, UMass (15-5, 3-3 A-10) knew it was going to wrestle with Rhode Island’s 2-3 zone defense, and that was certainly the case in the first quarter. The Rams jumped out to a 7-3 lead against the Minutewomen, and they fended off any attempts the home team made to close the gap.

After Ber’Nyah Mayo knocked down a triple for the Minutewomen’s opening tally, UMass didn’t find any success behind the three-point line, missing their next five attempts in the opening quarter. 

Not only was the Rams’ defense on point, but they also outplayed UMass when it came to rebounding, typically one of the Minutewomen's strengths. Rhode Island grabbed 35 boards compared to UMass’ 27. 

The Minutewomen were able to keep the Rams (16-3, 6-0) within reach thanks to some tenacious defense, denying several Rhode Island players point-blank opportunities in the paint. White came off the bench and gave UMass the boost it needed at the end of the first quarter, knocking down a jumper with four minutes remaining and sinking another field goal at the buzzer to pull UMass within five after one period.

White continued her dominant play on both ends of the court, making her presence known in the paint along with teammates Breen and Angelique Ngalakulondi. That defense stood strong as the Minutewomen whittled away at Rhode Island’s lead. Sydney Taylor sank a 3 early that brought the crowd to its feet, Breen fed White for an easy layup in the paint, then Mayo came in a few minutes later to knock down another field goal. But the offense came in fits and starts, and the Rams did just enough to keep them at bay. 

UMass got within three points with 2:33 to go in the half, but URI answered with a 6-0 run immediately. Mayo sank a buzzer-beater off a fast-break to pull the Minutewomen within seven heading into halftime.

Despite a short 4-0 run that looked like it could be the start of a comeback attempt, Mayo picked up two fouls, and that kicked off a 10-3 run for the Rams to close out the third quarter and stretch their lead to 15 points heading into the final 10 minutes. 

The fourth quarter wasn’t much better for the Minutewomen; the Rams held the home squad off the scoresheet for nearly the entirety of the final period. Mayo finally snapped Rhode Island’s 8-0 run with 3:45 left in the final frame, grabbing a field goal and knocking down a free throw on the and-one. But despite a 11-2 run to end the fourth, it was too little, too late for the home team.

Next up for the Minutewomen is a trip to play at Saint Joseph’s on Saturday.

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