Little East Conference Women's Basketball Semifinal Preview: #3 UMass Boston vs #2 UMass Dartmouth

Little East Conference Women's Basketball Semifinal Preview: #3 UMass Boston vs #2 UMass Dartmouth

BOSTON, Mass.—Four days after earning the program's first-ever Little East Conference Tournament victory, third-seeded UMass Boston women's basketball will be aiming for an upset, when they take on second-seeded UMass Dartmouth Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Eastern Connecticut State University's Geissler Gymnasium. 

GAME COVERAGE

Live Stats / Video

PREVIOUS MEETINGS

January 20—at UMass Dartmouth L 85-75 (Geary 28 points/Geary 6 assists)

February 11—at UMass Boston W 63-61 (Murphy 16 points/Morrison 11 rebounds)

THE MATCH-UP

UMass Boston and UMass Dartmouth will be playing for the 65th time on Saturday, but for just the third time in postseason play. The Corsairs hold a 2-0 advantage all-time against the Beacons in the Little East Conference playoffs, with quarterfinal victories over the Beacons in 1989 and 2013. Overall, UMass Dartmouth holds a 41-23 edge, with the two teams splitting the regular season-series in each of the past three years.

In the first match-up this year, four Corsairs finished in double-figures, as UMass Boston allowed a season-high 85 points, in an 85-75 win. The Little East's leading scorer Meghan Ronaghan recorded 26 points and 10 rebounds, while senior point guard Kelsey Garrity just missed out on a triple-double with 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. 

The Beacons got a season-high 28 points from Grace Geary (Falmouth, Mass.), who also chipped in with seven rebounds and six assists. Senior Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) and freshman Katie Mathieu (Coventry, Conn.) each added 16 points for the Beacons, while junior All-American Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) was held scoreless for the first time in her career.

UMass Boston pulled off a shocking victory in the second meeting; as the Beacons rallied from a 13-point deficit with 14:25 remaining, to earn a 63-61 win. Sophomore Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass.) knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play to secure the comeback. Murphy bounced back for UMass Boston in a big way, as the junior recorded 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Morrison finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds. The Corsairs only had one player end the night in double-figures, as Ronaghan totaled 21 points and five rebounds. 

HOW THEY GOT HERE

UMass Boston is in the midst of a historic season, as the Beacons have posted a program-record 18 wins, to go along with their record nine conference wins. Tuesday night, the Beacons earned their first-ever Little East Conference Tournament victory (1-25), with a 56-48 win over sixth-seeded Western Connecticut State. Morrison led UMass Boston with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while the Beacons used a 32-10 edge in points in the paint to knock off the Colonials.

First-year head coach Matt Ducharme has led the Corsairs to new heights this year, as the program clinched a share of their first-ever Little East Regular Season Title. The second-seeded Corsairs stand one win shy of the program-record for wins in a season, with the mark being set by the 2012-13 team (20-8). On Tuesday night, UMass Dartmouth got 28 combined points from Garrity and fellow senior Erin Fahey, as the Corsairs cruised to a 67-49 win over seventh-seeded Rhode Island College.

SCOUTING THE BEACONS

On a team that's anchored by three double-digit scorers, UMass Boston has found success with their team defense. The Beacons rank third in the conference with their 54.4 points per game allowed and top the conference with their 33.4 field goal percentage defense. Both of those marks have been slightly improved over the Beacons' recent five-game winning streak, as UMass Boston has held their five opponents to just 53.2 points and 32.8 percent shooting. 

Murphy leads the Beacons and the Little East in rebounding with 10.2 rebounds per game, while sitting in fourth in the LEC with her 13.7 points per game. The junior is followed closely by Geary (fifth) and Morrison (14th), as the Beacons are one of two teams (Rhode Island College) to have three players in the top-15 in the conference in scoring. Geary also ranks fourth in the conference in assists per game and second in steals per game (2.3), while Morrison trails only Ronaghan in field-goal percentage (51.7 percent). 

Sophomores Mallory Nelson (Topsham, Maine) and Burston have started every game for UMass Boston, while Katrina Edwards (Springfield, Mass.), Jamie Ballou (Foxboro, Mass.) and Mathieu have all provided scoring and energy off the bench. 

SCOUTING THE CORSAIRS 

UMass Dartmouth is looking to cap off the best four-year stretch in program history, with the program's first-ever LEC Tournament Title. Despite a 9-26 all-time Little East Conference Postseason record, the Corsairs are one win away from their second title game in three years. In 2013, the third-seeded Corsairs upset #2 Western Connecticut State 74-64 in overtime, before falling to top-seeded Southern Maine 90-66. 

This year's team is led by two of the top players in the LEC, in Ronaghan and Garrity. Ronaghan leads the conference in points (18.2 ppg) and field goal percentage (52.4 percent), while Garrity tops the conference in assists (4.9 apg) and steals (2.5 spg). 

The league's top scoring offense (68.8 points per game) has gotten great contributions across the board though, as seven players average 6.9 or more points per game. Bri Hochwarter set the program-record for 3-pointers in a single-season with 61 thus far and she's hitting threes at a league-best 41.8 percent clip. As a team, the Corsairs easily blow away the rest of the conference, with their 34.9 percent clip from distance.

THE COACHES

Saturday's second-semifinal pits what should be the two leading candidates for Little East Conference Coach of the Year. Mattingly has led the Beacons to program-records for wins, league-wins and a tie for the best-ever seeding in postseason play, while Ducharme has helped the Corsairs to their first-ever LEC Title of any kind, in his first year behind the bench.

DOWN THE ROAD 

The winner of Saturday's contest, will face the winner of the 5:30 semifinal between #1 Eastern Connecticut State University and #4 Keene State College in the LEC Tournament Title Game. The LEC Title Game will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Eastern Connecticut State.