By Zack Downing, Staff Writer
As the basketball season starts to wind down, it looks like the Corsairs women’s basketball team will have another good chance at the March Madness tournament title.
UMass Dartmouth came into Worcester State’s arena on Monday the Feb. 5, with a 17-3 record and a 6 game win streak. Right away, the Corsairs showed the Lancers why they’re one of the best in the state by jumping out to a 12-2 lead in the first minutes of the match. However, Worcester didn’t let the early run phase them, and the first quarter ended with the Corsairs only up by 6.
Junior Nakira Examond had a strong showing at the beginning of the second quarter by draining 8 straight points to put UMass D up 27-15. The Lancers still wouldn’t back down, and their offense answered with a bit of a run to end the half at 35-28.
Examond roared out of halftime by scoring 17 points in the third quarter, propelling the Corsairs to a fantastic 29 point quarter.
Despite being up by 16 going into the last quarter, their lead wasn’t quite safe. Worcester junior Kaitlyn Berkel scored 17 points of her own to try to get the Lancers within reach. They came close, but not close enough, and the game ended 82-75, Corsairs.
The difference maker in this game was shooting accuracy, as UMass D landed 53 percent of their shots to Worcester State’s 41%. Nakira Examond had one of her best games of the season with 36 points.
Next up came a tough opponent in the 19-2 UMass Boston Beacons team, on their home court. One of Boston’s two losses this season was against the Corsairs, though, and UMass D hoped to repeat it.
The first half as a whole was tight, with the Corsairs slowly building a slight lead as it ran on. The biggest difference between the two teams was the Beacons’ tendency to shoot three pointers, while the Corsairs do much of their damage in the paint. This is why UMass D’s accuracy is often higher, as it was this game.
The away team opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run, and suddenly UMass Boston was down 44-32. The rest of the game was slow offensively, including 4 minutes of no scoring in the fourth quarter. The lead stayed wide, and the game came to a close with a score of Corsairs 68, Beacons 53.
Despite their skilled play, the Corsairs have been UMass Boston’s Achilles heel this season, dealing them two of their three losses.
Examond had another solid game with 20 points, but the bigger storyline followed senior Alicia Kutil, who began to eye first place on the Corsair all-time scoring list.
It was Kutil’s time to shine again in a 26 point showing when the Corsairs returned home to face Eastern Connecticut. The first quarter was played competitively, but a 7 point run halfway through propelled UMass Dartmouth to a 7 point lead coming into the second.
Senior Leah Douty put 6 points on the board in another solid quarter that led the Corsairs into halftime up 36-25.
Eastern Connecticut played good basketball in the second half, but ultimately, they couldn’t gather the momentum needed to take a shot at catching up. With the help of a 14 point half by Examond, the Corsairs extended their 9 game win streak and won 78-62.
It was a huge night for the Corsairs team for a couple reasons. For one, they clinched the #1 seed in the upcoming LEC women’s basketball tournament, better than the program has ever ranked.
As for players, Alicia Kutil was the star of the night, as she passed the #1 leading scorer by one point to become the all time leading scorer in UMass D women’s basketball history, with 1,324 points.
The season isn’t over yet; their next game is at home against a struggling Keene State squad. Come on down to the Tripp Athletic Center on Saturday and watch Alicia Kutil extend her record!