BOSTON — Junior forward Asha Parker had a career-high 18 points, and junior guard Gemima Motema chipped in 16, as Northeastern held off a UMass comeback attempt in the closing minutes to defeat their in-state rival 78-74 in the first game of the season at the Cabot Center.
The first quarter of Thursday night’s contest was back-and-forth, with neither team going ahead by more than one possession aside from a brief 5-0 UMass lead a minute into the game. Senior guard Derin Erdogan got the scoring started for the Huskies with a quick three-pointer, after going 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the season opener against Stonehill. Senior guard Maddie Vizza, who also shot 1-for-5 from deep Monday night, followed with a couple threes of her own. Parker, meanwhile, hit three shots in the final five minutes of the quarter, as Northeastern looked for her on rolls to the basket throughout the night.
“Asha’s a great athlete and she’s worked a lot on her offensive game,” said Northeastern head coach Priscilla Edwards-Lloyd. “We knew that was something that would be open and we had faith that she could make those plays, and she did a really good job today of sticking to the gameplan.”
The Minutewomen, however, were able to create offense of their own in the quarter, looking to the three as they worked the ball around the perimeter to find open looks early on. UMass went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter, with two of those coming from junior guard Kristin Williams, one of just three returners for the team from last season following a coaching change. Williams was also one of the few players to come off the bench for the Minutewomen, who only had eight players available due to a variety of injuries.
UMass kept up the pace from deep in the second, as they attempted eight threes compared to just two from the Huskies. Northeastern’s only make from downtown in the frame came from the hot hand Vizza, showing flashes of what she accomplished from beyond the arc in her record-breaking freshman season. The Huskies’ 6-for-10 shooting from inside the arc in the quarter was the difference, though, as they headed into halftime up 42-36.
Northeastern continued their momentum out of the break, again looking to Parker, who added six more in the third quarter. Motema had seven points in the frame, including two technical free throws after Minutewomen head coach and former Huskies assistant Mike Leflar was given a penalty for protesting to the officials. Free throws were a theme for Motema throughout the game, as she drew trips to the line thanks to her drives, finishing the night 10-for-11 from the charity stripe.
Northeastern held a 59-50 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but UMass started the final frame with a 7-2 run to cut the advantage to four. The quarter felt like it was decided at the free-throw line, with the teams taking a combined 39 attempts from the stripe in the frame. However, it was a jumper from Motema that put the Huskies back ahead by double digits.
The Minutewomen were able to chip the lead down to five with some more free throws, but a layup from senior forward Deja Bristol that put Northeastern up 10 with less than a minute to go seemed to seal the game. Nevertheless, the Huskies let UMass stay in the game and came dangerously close to giving it away.
A foul on Williams as she shot a three, a turnover against the Minutewomen press, and missed opportunities on two possessions to get a defensive rebound, allowed UMass to get their deficit to as low as three. Also complicating things was an injury Erdogan sustained Monday night — she was forced to shoot with only her left hand on crucial free throws in the closing seconds, and missed both on her first trip before making one with three seconds left that finally clinched the win.
“Derin’s our trooper,” Edwards-Lloyd said. “She finds ways to just make plays when they matter. She knew she was going to be playing with some pain today, and she handled it well. [She] just was able to lock in and ice the game for us.”
Despite fouling out in the closing seconds, fifth-year guard Jaelyn Batts made an impact after missing the season opener, with her plus-minus of 11 points — a team-high.
“Jaelyn, she’s a game-changer,” Edwards-Lloyd said. “She can play multiple positions, she can guard multiple positions, she just brings an energy. She had some really, really big rebounds, some really big effort plays that just energized us, so I was excited to see her back on the floor.”
Even with the scare in the closing minutes, Northeastern extended their six-game winning streak against the Minutewomen that dates back to 2009.
“Just finding ways to get to the next play, I think that’s something for us,” Edwards-Lloyd said. “[The team] wanted to be better with being calmer in moments when teams have their run and continue to execute, so that’s still a work in progress, but I really was excited that we came together when UMass started to make their run and still found ways to win the game.”
The Huskies head to Chestnut Hill on Sunday afternoon as they face Boston College at 2 p.m. Matty Wasserman and Justin Diament will have the call on WRBB Sports+.