BOSTON, Mass.—Behind a huge double-double from senior Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), third-seeded UMass Boston women's basketball (18-8) earned the program's first-ever Little East Conference playoff victory, with a 56-48 win over sixth-seeded Western Connecticut State (16-10) Tuesday night in the Little East Conference Quarterfinals.
After earning the right to host the program's second home LEC playoff game in program history, the Beacons used 14 points and 15 rebounds from Morrison to improve to 1-25 all-time in the LEC Tournament.
UMass Boston will be facing a familiar foe in the LEC Semifinals, as they will take on #2 UMass Dartmouth Friday at 1 p.m. at Eastern Connecticut State. The two UMass schools split the season-series (1-1) and will be meeting in the LEC Tournament for the second time in three years. Friday's game will mark UMass Boston's first-ever trip to the LEC Semifinals.
Morrison knocked down 6-of-10 of her field goal attempts and pulled down six offensive rebounds, to go along with her three assists. Junior forward Olivia Murphy (Canton, Mass.) added 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting and chipped in five rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks.
Freshman guard Jamie Ballou (Foxboro, Mass.) had one of the biggest games of her season, as she recorded eight points and knocked down both of the team's made 3-pointers. After not playing in the past two games, she played the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with several players in heavy foul trouble.
Taje Burston (Springfield, Mass.) did a fantastic job of handling Western Connecticut State's press all evening long, as the sophomore point guard played all 40 minutes and finished with four steals and zero turnovers.
The Colonials were led by sophomores Samantha Smith (15 points) and Emily Dobson (14 points). Playing without their leading scorer Caroline Brasa for the third-straight game, the Colonials struggled to get anything going offensively.
Junior captain Kerri Stole ripped down a team-high 10 rebounds, while LEC Rookie of the Week Kaitlyn Labonte finished with six points and a game-high five assists.
Tuesday's contest was filled with sloppy play, as the two teams combined for 43 turnovers and 16 missed free throws.
After UMass Boston raced out to a 15-1 lead, the Colonials cut the deficit to two at halftime, and the game became a contest of attrition. UMass Boston was able to hold on thanks to a 32-10 edge in points in the paint.
The Beacons finished the contest shooting 45.7 percent (21-of-46) from the field and 2-of-8 (25 percent) from distance. Western Connecticut knocked down 30.9 percent (17-of-55) of their shots and connected on 7-of-25 (28 percent) of their 3-pointers.
It was all Beacons early on, as UMass Boston held the Colonials without a made field goal for the first 7:57. UMass Boston raced out to a 16-1 lead behind 14 combined points from Morrison, Burston and Murphy.
Western immediately found a response, as they used a 10-0 run to get back into the game for good. Dobson knocked down a jump shot at 12:03 to give the team their first field goal and the points followed in quick succession. Smith hit a big three and Dobson followed with another jump shot to cut the deficit to 16-11 with 7:14 to play.
After Ballou and Labonte traded threes, the Colonials ended the half on a 6-3 run to cut the deficit to 22-20.
UMass Boston came out red-hot out of halftime, as they started the half on an 8-0 run to grab a 30-20 lead just 89 seconds into the half. Ballou and Morrison combined for all eight points, as Morrison converted an and-one opportunity and Ballou hit a deep 3-pointer.
Western Connecticut didn't back down though, as they cut the deficit back to two (34-32) with 14:52 left.
The Beacons defense locked the Colonials down from there though, as Western went scoreless for the next five minutes. Despite their own offensive woes, a Murphy layup and the first four points of the day from Grace Geary (Falmouth, Mass.) helped UMass Boston extend the lead out to 39-32 with 9:33 left.
Dobson broke the 5-0 run with a layup, but that would be as close as the Colonials would get, with UMass Boston extending the lead out to as many as 12 points in the waning moments.
UMass Boston wraps up the home portion of their season 11-3 at home.