BOSTON, Mass.—After enjoying a record-setting regular season, third-seeded UMass Boston Women's Basketball is aiming to make some more history Tuesday evening, when they host sixth-seeded Western Connecticut State University in the Little East Conference Quarterfinals at 7 p.m. The contest will mark just the second-time in program-history that the Beacons have hosted a home LEC playoff game at the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium.
January 17—at Western Conn. St. W 57-42 (Geary 16 points/Murphy 14 rebounds)
February 21—at UMass Boston W 64-48 (Morrison 18 points/Murphy 11 rebounds)
UMass Boston and Western Connecticut State will be meeting for the sixth time in the LEC postseason and the 47th time overall. Western Connecticut State is 5-0 in the postseason against the Beacons and leads the all-time series 36-10. The two teams haven't played in the postseason since 2007, when the sixth-seeded Colonials upset third-seeded UMass Boston on the Beacons' home floor.
This season was a completely different story though, as UMass Boston earned a season-sweep of the Colonials for the first time in program history. In the first match-up, the Beacons raced out to a 34-19 lead and held Western to just 24.1 percent shooting from the field, in a 57-42 win. On Saturday, the Beacons wrapped up the season-sweep behind a huge edge down low. The Beacons earned a 41-22 rebounding advantage and a 34-8 edge in points in the paint.
The Beacons' big three of Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) and Grace Geary (Falmouth, Mass.) combined to average 41.5 points per game in the two wins, while the Beacons held Western to just 44.5 points per game as an entire team.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
It's been a season of firsts and records for UMass Boston, as the Beacons set program-records for total wins (17) and conference wins (nine). After starting the year with six-straight road games, the Beacons have taken advantage of 13 home games in their 19 contests, with UMass Boston sporting a 10-3 mark at the Clark Athletic Center.
The Beacons third-place finish ties the program's best ever finish, as the 2006-07 team also ended the year as the third seed.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS
UMass Boston has taken a huge step forward in head coach Courtney Mattingly's sixth-season. Behind their two 1,000 point scorers and a dynamic freshman class, the Beacons lead the Little East in both field goal percentage offense (40.8%) and field goal percentage defense (33.5%). As a team, the Beacons rank in the top three in 17 of the 21 team categories kept by the Little East Conference.
Murphy, the Beacons' junior All-American, has led the way, as she's averaging a league-best 10.4 rebounds, to go along with her 13.7 points per game. Morrison isn't far behind, as she's averaging 10.2 points and six rebounds and is shooting a team-best 51.2 percent from the field. The final big time-scorer for the Beacons has been Geary. The freshman guard ranks fourth in the conference with her 14 points per game and she also sits amongst the league leaders with her 3.7 assists per game and her 2.3 steals per game.
The Beacons have also gotten great contributions out of the rest of their starting lineup and bench. Sophomores Mallory Nelson (Topsham, Maine) Chantel Jordan (Brockton, Mass.) and Katrina Edwards (Springfield, Mass.) have all provided great defense and rebounding, while sophomore point guard Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass.) has started every game in her first season with the team. Off the bench, freshman guards Katie Mathieu (Coventry, Conn.) and Jamie Ballou (Foxboro, Mass.) have provided a scoring spark that has desperately been missing in past seasons.
SCOUTING THE COLONIALS
Western Connecticut State is aiming to keep their nine-year stretch of reaching the Little East Conference Quarterfinals alive, after suffering through a two-game losing streak to end the season. The Colonials have lost back-to-back contests since losing the team's losing scorer and rebounder-Caroline Brasa to injury.
In Brasa's absence, the Colonials are going to have rely heavily on junior captain Kerri Stolle to lead a team that consists of eight underclassmen on a 10-woman roster. Stolle leads the team in assists per game with 3.7 and is the only player on the roster to have started all 25 games.
Sophomores Colleen Cosker and Emily Dobson will be looking to pick up the scoring slack. Cosker led the team in points per game last season (9.3 ppg) and ranks second on the team this season with her 8.8 points per game. Dobson is third on this year's team with 8.5 points per game and scored a career-high 21 points in Saturday's loss to the Beacons.
Tuesday's matchup pits Mattingly against five-time Little East Conference Coach of the Year Kimberley Rybczyk. While Mattingly and the Beacons are going for their first-ever postseason win, the Colonials have won at least one game in nine-straight seasons and have won the LEC Tournament twice in the past decade.
DOWN THE ROAD
The winner of Tuesday's contest, will face the winner of the No. 2 (UMass Dartmouth) vs. No. 7 (Rhode Island College) match-up on Friday, at the highest remaining seed in the semi-final round of the tournament.