Keeping Score: It’s time for the UMass women’s basketball program to go

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The UMass women’s basketball team squandered a 16-point lead and lost to Saint Louis, 70-64, in the opening round of the Atlantic-10 Tournament on Tuesday. The loss spoiled an opportunity for UMass to improve to .500 (15-15) and possibly achieve only its second winning season this century.

The athletic department’s website doesn’t keep records of women’s hoops prior to 1999-2000, but that’s a large enough window to see what an abysmal failure it’s been.

The UMass women haven’t had a winning season in their 16-year affiliation with the A-10, and if my math’s right, they are 140 games under .500 since 1999-2000.

In short, UMass women’s basketball has been a waste of the taxpayers’ money. The team draws 500 fans on a good night, and its only winning season was 2006-07.

No need to pine for the glory years. There has been one.

UMass women’s basketball is a prime example of Title IX gone bad, aided by an administration that put its eggs in the wrong basket.

Indeed, UMass and UMass Lowell are the only two schools without a women’s team in Hockey East.

Last week the University of Maine women’s team won its first-ever Hockey East playoff game, beating BU in overtime, 3-2. The Black Bears are coached by the husband-wife team of Phil and Sara Reichenbach. Phil played for the irrepressible Phil Grady at Hamilton College, and Grady previously was Northfield Mount Hermon School’s hockey coach.

Hockey runs deep in these parts. There’s at least one Bay Stater on every roster in Hockey East. It’s time for athletic director Ryan Bamford to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s natural resources and get women’s hockey on the map in Amherst.

Ifs and Buts: Imagine UMass going all-in when the Mid-American Conference gave it the ultimatum. The football program was on the verge of contending, and the men’s basketball team might’ve qualified for an NCAA tourney or two.

One reason UMass stayed out of the MAC was to protect its phenomenally successful women’s lacrosse program. Coach Angela McMahon was 17-4 last year, won the A-10 title and reached her sixth NCAA tournament last season.

The men’s lacrosse team hasn’t fared as well of late. Coach Greg Canella’s team has lost three of its first four games and is seeking its first winning season since 2014. On Tuesday the No. 1 team in the nation comes to Amherst when Albany invades Garber Field at 1 p.m.

Logan’s a Goner: Reader Dan Carmody emailed that contrary to what was written last week, UMass place kicker Logan Laurent doesn’t have one year of eligibility remaining. He was a redshirt senior and is gone, clearing the way for JUCO transfer Cooper Garcia to handle all the placekicking chores.

Kudos to UMass Hockey: Coach Greg Carvel’s hockey team (15-17-2) hosts Vermont in a Hockey East quarterfinal game tonight at the Mullins Center. It’s the first home playoff game for UMass hockey since 2007, when over 16,000 fans watched the Minutemen sweep Maine.

Tickets start at $17 and increase to $22 at 4 p.m. when the “day-of” prices kick in. The best-of-three series continues on Friday at 7 p.m., with the rubber game scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m.

The Minutemen are on the verge of being the first hockey team since 2009-10 to finish with more wins than the basketball team.

Matt McCall’s hoopsters were 11-18 at this writing and went into Wedneday night’s game at Richmond on a five-game skid.

Internet Roulette: The Hockey East championships will be played in two weeks at TD Garden, and the HEA website was offering a “Friends and Family Room Block” at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge for $199 a night (plus 14.45-percent tax).

Whenever travel and the internet conspire, it’s wise to check around for the best rate. I needn’t have gone far, the Royal Sonesta website was offering the same “Cambridge View” room for $187 a night, plus tax.

The $24 savings is enough to make coffee and a honey bun part of the “unique food and beverage experience” at Royal Sonesta.

A UMass Moment: We won’t mention names because they work hard and it’s like they got pranked, but during the radio broadcast of last Saturday’s hockey game they announced that UMass had beaten George Mason, 64-61.

Oops, not so fast. We interrupt this broadcast to report a UMass player had fouled freshman Goanar Mar with one second left. The freshman converted all three free throws to tie the game, and George Mason won in overtime.

As Cindy Adams would say, only in Amherst kids.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.