UMass basketball: Minutewomen can’t dig out of early hole in 78-57 loss to Harvard

UMass’ Jermany Mapp (1), left, battles for a rebound with Harvard’s Harmoni Turner (14) during non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night.

UMass’ Jermany Mapp (1), left, battles for a rebound with Harvard’s Harmoni Turner (14) during non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

UMass’ Stefanie Kulesza (44), left, tries to get a shot up over Harvard’s Harmoni Turner (14) during non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night.

UMass’ Stefanie Kulesza (44), left, tries to get a shot up over Harvard’s Harmoni Turner (14) during non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

UMass’ Bre Bellamy (20) drives to the basket defended by Harvard’s Katie Krupa (31) duirng non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night.

UMass’ Bre Bellamy (20) drives to the basket defended by Harvard’s Katie Krupa (31) duirng non-conference action at the Mullins Center in Amherst on Thursday night. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer 

Published: 11-16-2023 9:01 PM

Modified: 11-16-2023 9:00 PM


AMHERST — The final score between the Harvard and UMass women’s basketball teams felt closer than the scoreboard indicated. It may have been a 21-point defeat, but considering the Minutewomen were in a 20-point hole after the first quarter, the comeback effort from the home team showed significant resilience. 

Though UMass pulled within eight points at one moment in the third quarter, the Crimson were able to stave off the comeback effort and secure a 78-57 win at the Mullins Center, outscoring UMass 24-15 in the final period. 

All in all, it wasn't a bad showing for the Minutewomen (1-3), which showed flashes of being a strong, competitive team, especially in the second and third quarters. But head coach Mike Leflar doesn’t want the team to get complacent, especially after a loss. 

“I don't want to get used to moral victories because I'm still competitive and we have a group of 13 competitive young women and a competitive coaching staff so the loss still stings,” Leflar said. “It's got to motivate us for the next time that we step out on the floor.” 

Stefanie Kulesza rattled off 13 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the year while Kristin Williams led the team with 16 points. Jermany Mapp and Dallas Pierce had six points each and Tori Hyduke finished with four assists and four points, though some calf cramping took her off the floor at two different points. 

Williams and Kulesza continued to pace the team offensively, but the entire team struggled to put the ball in the basket in the first period. Harvard (3-1) came out flying ready to play, outscoring UMass 28-8 in the opening frame. The home team’s offense was disjointed and needed some time to get adjusted. 

“We just needed to settle down, honestly. I think we're a team that needs to get with the flow, especially me – (I) came out and had one turnover at the start,” Williams said. “I think the message – (Leflar) called a timeout within like the first three minutes, and he was just like ‘We need to slow down, we just need to play like we did in practice the past few days.’” 

The Crimson seemed poised for a blowout win, but the Minutewomen got scrappy and found their game in the second period. The home team outscored Harvard 18-11 in the second frame, including a 7-0 run in the middle of the period and a 4-0 run over the last 2:53 to close out the half. UMass went into halftime facing an 11-point deficit. 

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In addition to the slow first quarter, UMass’ kryptonite was Harvard guard Lola Mullaney, who went 7-for-13 from behind the three-point arc and finished with a team-high 23 points. Mullaney and Harmoni Turner, who added 22 points and four assists, scored more than half of the Crimson’s total points and wreaked havoc on the Minutewomen’s defense.

Leflar knew that Mullaney was going to be a threat, but he had hoped that his team would be able to take away some of the easier looks she got on Thursday night. 

“She makes threes and she's a confident shooter. She's not afraid, she took 13 of them,” Leflar said. “When she gets easy ones in transition, when we're not there to rotate, when she gets threes in their offense, that stings because it's things we talk about with our team…. we have to limit the opportunities for them when we can control them.” 

The third quarter was tighter than the second but it seemed like the Minutewomen were still trending in the right direction, riding a 7-0 run to make it a 45-37 game with 5:08 left in the third. That seemed to snap Harvard out of its reverie; the visitors went on a 15-0 run in the middle of the quarter, quashing any hope of a UMass victory. 

The Minutewomen will pack their bags for a long six-game road trip over the next 24 days. They’ll kick that off with a trip to Monmouth on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be streamed on FloHoops. 

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.