WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – More often than not over the last five years, the Eastern Connecticut State University and University of Massachusetts Boston women's basketball games at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium have been filled with suspense – with the Beacons winning once and extending the Little East Conference championship game to overtime on another occasion.
Saturday, in the first game of the home-and-home regular-season set between the top-ranked teams in the conference pre-season coaches' poll, there was none of that after the Warriors raced to a ten-point lead before the game was six minutes old, and expanded the lead to 22 after only ten minutes in blasting the once-beaten Beacons, 88-54.
Behind six-foot sophomore forward Anna Barry (Andover) and freshman forward Mariah Dunn (Meriden), Eastern (8-2, 2-0 LEC) shot 67 percent in the first half and took a 27-point lead into the second half. on the way to its fourth straight victory -- first after two opening losses at home. Over the first 20 minutes, Barry had 11 points (5-of-6 from the floor) and Dunn came off the bench for ten (4-of-4 from the floor, 2-of-2 from the foul line), and the duo combined with their teammates to limit UMass (9-2, 1-1 LEC) 21.4 field goal shooting and force 13 turnovers that led to 13 Eastern points in the first half.
Dunn doubled her previous career best with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the floor and 8-of-12 marksmanship from the stripe in only 18 minutes. Senior forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) totalled 17 points (7-of-12 FG) and six rebounds and Barry played only eight minutes in the second half and closed out the game with her 11 first-half points and had six rebounds. Sophomore guard Julie Keckler (Trumbull) had five points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. The Warriors shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the game, UMB 25.8
All 15 roster players saw action, with nine seeing at least ten minutes. Sophomore guard Marissa Shirshac (Hampton) saw her first minutes this year, sinking a pair of free throws with three minutes left and senior tri-captain Tara Prochorena (Colchester) contributing five points -- including a three-pointer -- and pulling down three rebounds in three minutes.
Six-foot junior forward Joie Grassi, who played only three first-quarter minutes due to injury, finished with a game-high 14 points for UMass, with junior guard Tahjai Mazyck adding 12 points and junior guard Jalani Jackson chipping in 11 points and three steals.
Eastern hosts Massachusetts Dartmouth Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a conference game.