WORCESTER – Chelsea Houlihan (Wolcott, CT) poured in a team-best 13 points and Nakira Examond (New Bedford, MA) led all players with 13 rebounds as visiting UMass Dartmouth opened the 2016-17 season by defeating WPI 56-47 in a match-up of preseason women's basketball conference favorites on Tuesday evening.
UMass Dartmouth, the preseason coaches pick in the Little East Conference is now 1-0, while the host Engineers, the NEWMAC defending champions and preseason top choice among conference coaches, slips to 0-1.
WPI got off to a quick start as Stasha Greenalch (Newington, CT) and Priscilla Dunphy (Barrington, RI) each notched four points as the Engineers jumped out to 11-4 advantage over the opening eight minutes. The Corsairs made a push to cut the deficit to a single point until a traditional 3-point play by Ama Biney (Worcester, MA) pushed the lead back to four at 18-14 with 6:03 to go before intermission. From that point forward the Corsairs scored 13 of the game's next 16 points to take a 27-20 advantage just 33 seconds into the third quarter. The UMD spurt was highlighted by a pair of trifectas by Rachel McCarron (Groton, MA).
The guests held a six point bulge at 40-34 with 7:43 to go before rattling off six straight points, including a basket and two freebies by Examond to go up 12 (46-34) with just 4:40 remaining. WPI had one final surge led by seven points by Biney to get within two at 49-47 but the Corsairs canned seven-of-eight free throws in the final 43 seconds, including four straight by Leah Douty (Framingham, MA) to secure the road victory.
Examond finished just a point short of a double-double as she registered nine points to go along with her 13 rebounds (8 defensive) and three steals. Douty joined Houlihan in double digits with 11 points and McCarron finished with seven points and six rebounds.
Biney paced all players with 16 points. The returning first-team All-NEWMAC member stuffed the stat sheets with seven boards, a game-best four teams, two assists and a pair of blocks. Dunphy and Maura Buckley (Melrose, MA) ended with eight points apiece and Greenalch and Sarah Rogers (Colchester, CT) both finished with six points a Rogers drained both of her 3-point attempts on the night. Dunphy chipped in with seven rebounds and Tess Nogueira (Merrimac, MA) was solid with six points, two blocks and two steals before fouling out in the final seconds.
The hosts won many of the statistical categories including points in the paint (18-6), points off turnovers (15-7), second chance points (9-5) and attempted 17 more field goals than UMass Dartmouth on the night but the Corsairs held the Engineers to just 29.2% shooting from the floor to earn the win.
WPI looks for its third straight Worcester City Tournament title on Friday, when it opens the 36th annual tournament versus Becker at Worcester State at 8pm. UMass Dartmouth is also back in action on Friday, hosting Salve Regina at noon in the opener of the Fairfield Inn Tournament.