DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Six-foot senior forward Alicia Kutil had four of her game-high 25 points in the final minute of the first quarter when the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth women's basketball team grabbed the momentum for good as the Corsairs clinched their first-ever top seed in the Little East Conference tournament with a 78-62 victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at the Tripp Athletic Center.
With two LEC regular-season games remaining, UMass (20-3, 12-0 LEC) clinched at least a share of its first LEC regular-season championship with its ninth straight victory and swept the season series from Eastern (10-13, 7-5 LEC) for only the second time in the 32-year history of the conference.
Western Connecticut's 95-79 loss at Keene State this afternoon guarantees the Warriors fourth place in the final LEC standings and a first-round home tournament game a week from Tuesday.
Maintaining this year the momentum it gained by reaching the NCAA Division III Elite Eight as an at-large selection last year, UMass never trailed in the game, outscoring Eastern by 24 points in the paint and by 15 off turnovers. With her team leading by one point in the final minute of the first quarter, Kutil scored twice and had a steal as UMD scored the final six points of the quarter to build a seven-point, 21-14 lead after ten minutes. The Corsairs led by 11 at halftime and the lead never dipped into single figures over the final 14 minutes.
The Warriors cut the lead to six points four minutes into the second half on a three-pointer by senior guard Kelly Reardon (Holyoke, MA) -- set up by sophomore forward Mya Villard's (Cromwell) rebound -- but UMD sandwiched an inside basket by 2016-17 LEC Player-of-the-Year Nakira Examond and a pair of free throws by Leah Douty to restore a ten-point lead midway through the quarter.
Kutil, who took over as UMD's all-time leading scorer on a three-pointer in the final seconds, led four UMass double-digit scorers with 25 points and also had nine rebounds and four steals. Douty had 16 points and Examond 14 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) equaled her career high with 22 points for Eastern, sinking half of her 14 field goal attempts and five of seven free throws. Villard recorded her sixth double-double in the last 12 games with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Ten of her points came in 15 free throws for Villard, who was 3-of-16 from the floor. Reardon chipped in ten points and three assists and freshman forward Diana Wnuk (Bristol) had a career-high ten rebounds in 34 minutes in her first career start.
Eastern visits Western Connecticut Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.