BOSTON, Mass.—The University of Massachusetts Boston women's basketball team will be looking for their first ever Little East Conference tournament victory tomorrow when they travel to take on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a 7 p.m. quarterfinal contest.
The Beacons, who are the No. 6 seed in this year's tournament, will make the trip to North Dartmouth, Mass. to face the No. 3 Corsairs, with the winner of that contest advancing to the semi-finals which will be played on Friday at the highest remaining seed.
Tuesday night's contest marks the 24th Little East Conference tournament appearance for UMass Boston, with the Beacons going 0-23 thus far.
While UMass Boston and UMass Dartmouth have never technically met in the Little East Conference Tournament, UMass Boston did fall to Southeastern Massachusetts University in the 1989 tournament. Southeastern Massachusetts University became UMass Dartmouth in 1991, when it was merged into the UMass system.
UMass Boston earned their first LEC Conference Tournament berth in three seasons last year, when the Beacons fell 54-31 to third-seeded Keene State College.
The 2012-13 season, has been one of the best seasons in program history. Currently standing with a 14-11 record, the Beacons are tied for the second-most wins in program history, and need just one more to tie the 2006-07 squad that finished 15-11 under head coach Shawn Polk. The Beacons 7-6 home record is their first above .500 home mark since the 2007-08 season, when they finished 7-6.
Their 6-8 conference mark to close out the year is tied for the second best result in program-history, behind only the 06-07 season, when UMB finished 8-6 in Little East play.
This year, the Beacons and Corsairs have met on two occasions, with the home team winning both times.
In the first game of the year, UMass Boston overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and used a 17-9 run over the final seven minutes to down the Corsairs 76-73. UMass Dartmouth returned the favor last week in North Dartmouth, using a 15-4 flurry to close the game to earn a 55-48 victory.
All-time Tuesday's tournament match-up will mark the 60th meeting between the two programs. To date, UMass Dartmouth/Southeastern Massachusetts University have won 38 of those contests, while UMB is looking to win the season-series against their in-state rivals for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when UMass Boston took both contests.
In order for the Beacons to earn their 22nd victory against the Corsairs Tuesday, UMass Boston will rely heavily on their fearsome frontcourt duo of Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) and Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.).
Murphy stands third in the Little East Conference with a team-leading 14.3 points per game and leads the conference with 10.0 rebounds per game. Monday she was named the Little East Conference Rookie of the Week for a program-record seventh time. In two games this season against UMass Dartmouth, Murphy has averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while chipping in six steals and five blocks.
Joining Murphy in the frontcourt is the reigning Little East Conference Rookie of the Year in Morrison. The sophomore center and two-sport star has put together another fantastic season, averaging 13.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, good for fourth and third in the conference. Morrison has dominated the Corsairs this season averaging 17 points and 13 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting. In four career games against UMD, Morrison has finished with a double-double in every one and scored 19 points or more in three of the four contests.
The Beacons backcourt is led by a trio of Massachusetts natives who all have the potential to go off four double-digit points in any game. Sophomore point guard and tri-captain Lauren Perra (Taunton, Mass.) is second in the conference with 4.2 assists per game and is the team's top three-point and foul shooter. Perra has knocked down exactly half of the Beacons 3-pointers this season (47-of-94) and leads UMB with a 73.9 percent mark from the charity stripe.
Junior transfer Andrea Suffredini (Milford, Mass.) has helped out running the offense, chipping in the third most assists per game this season in the conference at 3.3 apg. The Suffolk University transfer also finished third in scoring for UMB with 7.8 points per game and has been a pest on defense, picking up a team-leading 48 steals.
The third member of the Beacons starting backcourt is their lone senior, Teresa Pina (Boston, Mass.). Pina has proved to fill the role of small forward perfectly for UMB, averaging 6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and over a steal per game.
Off the bench, UMass Boston will rely heavily on sophomore Brittany Moore (Billerica, Mass.) and freshman Meghan Agger (Sacco, Maine) and Gabriela Cogliano (Saugus, Mass.). The trio each fill a specific role: Moore is a talented big, who is a strong defender and can lockdown highly athletic bigs, Agger is the Beacons second-best 3-point shooter and Cogliano provides the Beacons with an extremely athletic sixth-man, who can play the two or the three.
With a win tomorrow night UMB will advance to the semi-final round of this year's tournament. The host site of the final four, which will be determined following Tuesday's contests, will be played this Friday and Saturday. The winner of the conference tournament will receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. Last season, Rhode Island College ran the table in the conference tournament and advanced to the Second Round of last year's national tournament.