Women's Basketball: Four straight wins for 'Cats
Despite a sluggish first half, the UNH women's basketball team fought back and defeated UMBC, 46-35, to improve to 8-1 in America East conference play.
"We weren't focused, we let them push us out of what we wanted to do," junior Kaylee Kilpatrick said.
Down 18-13 to start the second half, forward Corinne Coia turned the ball over during the first possession. The Retrievers turned the turnover into points off a layup from freshman guard Taylor McCarley. On the next possession, Coia drew a foul and made both shots from the charity stripe.
Still trailing by five, Kilpatrick was able to make a nice jumper to close the gap. UMBC missed a three-pointer on its next possession but grabbed the offensive rebound. The Retrievers cashed in on the second chance and scored a three pointer to take a 23-17 lead.
With 17:06 to play, the Wildcats and Retrievers exchanged layups, maintaining UMBC's six-point lead. Over the next six minutes, UNH went on an 8-0 run to take a 27-25 lead. The Retrievers quickly tied it back up at 27, before Kilpatrick made two free throws. The Wildcats never trailed again, sealing the victory with a 12-1 run over the next 8 minutes. UMBC outscored the Wildcats 7-5 in the final two minutes of the game.
"Overall, I'm pleased with our defense," head coach Maureen Magarity said. "We held them to 35 points, so that's definitely a highlight for our defense. Second half, we did a much better job executing our offensive sets, playing the ball inside, and sticking to our game plan. ... I thought our defensive focus was better in the second half, our rebounding was better, and we played more man too. ... We were able to get it inside more with Corinne and Kaylee and play better."
"We obviously weren't shooting very well in the beginning, but we let our defense lead our offense, which is why we were better in the second half," junior guard Ariel Gaston said. "We stuck together though and went into halftime knowing we just had to stick to our gameplan and play with a little more focus."
Kilpatrick was key to the second half turnaround, scoring nine of her 14 points in the frame. Kilpatrick added eight rebounds and four assists over 34 minutes of play. Gaston chipped in eight points, six rebounds, an assist and a steal over 36 minutes of play.
The Wildcats were sluggish in the first half, committing five turnovers and nine fouls. UNH had some life near the end of the half. Down nine, Gaston drove hard to the basket for a layup. Coia got fouled minutes later and added two from the free-throw line, to shorten UMBC's lead to five.
In the first half, the Wildcats offense only scored four field goals on 19 percent shooting for 13 points, a season low.
"To credit UMBC, I think they had a lot to do with that," Magarity said. "They changed up their defensive sets and forcing us into well-contested shots that just weren't going down."
The defense, however, was stingy, limiting the Retrievers to 35 total points, 18 coming in the first half. UMBC only shot 25 percent from the field.
"Our defense has been our strength this season and even when our offense isn't falling, the defense has been there to pick it up," Magarity said. "Even when we only score 13 points in the first half, I look up and they [UMBC] has only scored 18, so our defense is keeping us in the game."
"I think we are definitely have identified ourselves as a defensive team," Gaston said. "Nine out of 10 times, our defense is what keeps us in games."
The Wildcats will head out to Stony Brook for a 2 p.m. tip-off against their America East foe. The teams met on Jan. 11, when UNH squeezed out a 71-68 overtime victory over the Seawolves.
Arjuna Ramgopal can be reached on Twitter @ArjunaRamgopal
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