BOSTON, Mass.—For the second time in three years, #6 UMass Boston women's basketball is set to square off with intra-state rival #3 UMass Dartmouth in the Little East Conference Tournament. The teams will meet Tuesday night at UMass Dartmouth's Tripp Athletic Center at 5:30 p.m. in the LEC Quarterfinal Round.
ALL-TIME SERIES: UMass Dartmouth leads the all-time series 44-25 and the Corsairs have won three-straight overall. Tuesday night's matchup marks the fourth all-time postseason meeting between the two programs and third in five years. UMass Dartmouth defeated the Beacons in 1989 and 2013, before the Beacons earned their first-ever LEC Semifinal win with a 72-49 victory over the Corsairs.
SEASON SERIES: Very little separated the two teams during the regular-season, with UMass Dartmouth earning a pair of victories by a combined seven points.
In the first contest in Boston, UMass Dartmouth outscored the Beacons 21-8 in the third quarter to earn a 73-68 comeback victory. LEC Conference Player of the Year Candidate Nakira Examond led the team with 22 points and 16 rebounds, which Alicia Kutil (20 points and nine rebounds) and Rachel McCaron (19 points and seven rebounds) joined Examond in double-figures.
The Beacons were led by 14 points in 20 minutes from junior Raven Kelsey (Boston, Mass.). Seniors Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass.) and Chantel Jordan (Brockton, Mass.) joined Kelsey in double-figures with 13 and 12 points respectively. UMass Boston made up for the Corsairs 44-22 advantage in points in the paint, by knocking down nine 3-pointers and turning the ball over just 14 times.
The second matchup was even closer, as UMass Dartmouth used a 20-3 run over the final 5:51 to deal the Beacons a 68-66 loss last Wednesday in Dartmouth. UMass Dartmouth senior Rachel McCarron knocked down a contested baseline jumper with less than a second left to secure the comeback win. Kutil led the Corsairs with 22 points, while Examond totaled 17 points and just four rebounds.
Katie Mathieu (Coventry, Conn.) and Jordan each poured in a team-high 17 points for the Beacons. Burston added on 13 points and six assists, while Kelsey notched a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
In the two matchups, UMass Boston finished just -3 in rebounds against the top rebounding team in the conference (91-88). The Beacons also held UMass Dartmouth to just 4-17 shooting (23.5 percent) from distance.
SCOUTING THE CORSAIRS: UMass Dartmouth is enjoying their best season in program history this winter. The Corsairs captured their record-setting 21st overall victory (21-4) and 11th conference win on Saturday in a 69-41 road win over the University of Southern Maine. The Corsairs are ranked sixth in the Northeast Region and are one of three Little East Conference teams to be ranked. They've been especially impressive in 2017, with head coach Matt Ducharme's squad earning a 12-2 record, with their only two losses coming against top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University.
Examond has been a huge part of the team's success. After playing behind two-time LEC Player of the Year Meghan Ronaghan last season, Examond led the LEC during the regular season with her 16.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. She's gotten a lot of help down low from Kutil, who adds 13.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. McCarron is the final Corsair in double-figures with 10.8 points, while junior Chelsea Houlihan is tied for the league-lead with her four assists per game.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS: After a rollercoaster 2016-17 campaign, UMass Boston is looking to get back to their third-straight LEC Championship Game. The Beacons enter the postseason on a four-game losing streak, in which they've lost the four contests by a combined 14 points. Overall, UMass Boston stands at 9-16, with 11 of their 16 losses coming by single digits. The Beacons have actually had more success on the road than at home this year. They've posted a 5-7 road record versus a 3-9 mark at home.
If UMass Boston is going to pull the upset, they will have to rely on their upperclassmen. The Beacons top six scorers are all juniors and seniors, with Kelsey and Jordan topping the squad at 11 points per game. Kelsey also ranks second in the conference with her 9.5 points per game, while Burston is tied for the league-lead with her 4.0 assists per game. Mathieu and Katrina Edwards (Springfield, Mass.) are two of the Beacons' glue players and will need to fill up the stat sheet tonight.
KEY STAT: Earning a big advantage beyond the arc might be the Beacons' best chance to earn the win. UMass Boston is shooting 33.5 percent this year in victories, versus just 25.2 percent in losses. On the flip side, the Corsairs have hit 28 percent of their threes in wins, against just 17.8 percent in losses.