A three-pointer with 1:06 on the clock from graduate student Ariel Stephenson lifted women’s basketball over the Minutewomen in a back-and-forth fight Sunday.
The Colonials (8-11, 2-4 A-10) triumphed over the Minutewomen (14-6, 4-3 A-10) in a 50-47 comeback victory. With the win, the Colonials maintained their 24-0 win streak at the Smith Center and their eight-game win streak against the Minutewomen.
“I’m really proud of the team for gutting out a win today,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “It’s that time of the season, mid-season, where I think players get really critical of themselves in their performance and as a coach, as much as you want it to be about X’s and O’s, it’s constantly trying to figure out how to get guys to play with confidence.”
Redshirt freshman forward Mayowa Taiwo led the team with 14 points and eight rebounds. Graduate student forward Alexandra Maund followed suit, accumulating seven points and five rebounds.
Both teams came out hot from behind the arc to start the first quarter. The Colonials hit 2-of-2 while the Minutewomen hit 4-of-7 to give themselves an early lead over the Colonials. The Minutewomen converted 41.2 percent from the field, while the Colonials shot 45.5 percent from the floor. By the end of the first quarter, the Colonials lagged behind at 18–12.
The Colonials opened the second quarter strongly, drawing within two points with the help of a stout defense that nabbed 10 defensive rebounds. The Minutewomen struggled to find points, sinking just 2-of-15 from the field and 1-of-8 from behind the arc.
Despite the offensive woes, the Minutewomen rallied back defensively, forcing the Colonials to go 13.3 percent from the field and keeping them out of reach. By the end of the half, the Colonials still trailed but kept the deficit within six points.
“I think we were a little more locked in to not only what they were running, but also who we’re closing out to,” Stephenson said. “Because we were able to do that, we kind of forced them to take shots that they didn’t necessarily want them to take and shots that we wanted them to take.”
The Minutewomen kept the pressure on at the start of the second half and captured their largest lead of the game at 11 with 8:34 remaining in the third quarter. Despite the slow start, the Colonials went on a 10-point scoring run.
Taiwo nailed two free throws to give the Colonials their first lead of the game at 36–35 with less than a minute left. Redshirt junior guard Syndey Zambrotta added a triple to stretch the lead to 39–35, their largest of the game.
Despite the momentum shift, a three-point shot from senior guard and forward Hailey Leidel in the dying seconds of the quarter brought the Minutewomen level again at 39–39. Leidel netted a floor-leading 19 points over the course of the game and went 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
“I didn’t think that our first group was very locked in which is why went to the subs pretty quickly,” Rizzotti said. “I think I put in Sydney, Kayla and Maddie within three minutes and I think sometimes that allows the first group to take a seat, watch the game, and realize what they need to be doing better. So I’m lucky that I have a lot of good players on the bench.”
The bench contributed 13 points throughout the game. Seven points came from the bench in the third quarter.
A layup from Taiwo reinstated the Colonial lead to start the fourth quarter. The lead would not last for long, though. The go-ahead three pointer from junior forward Sam Breen gave the Minutewomen the 47–45 lead with 2:05 remaining in the game.
Stephenson responded with a crucial three-point conversion of her own to give the Colonials the lead with 1:06 left. Despite a desperate attempt to steal the game from Massachusetts, a defensive rebound from Taiwo and two free throw shots from Zambrotta put the game to bed at 50–47.
“We were missing some free throw rebounds, some 50-50 balls, and that gave them second chance opportunities,” Taiwo said. “So for us to be able to close out the game was really rebounding the ball.”
The Colonials hit the road again at St. Joseph’s Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.