Scrolling Headlines:

Nineteen turnovers sink UMass men’s basketball in loss to Fordham Saturday -

January 21, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls to Fordham behind strong defensive effort by the Rams -

January 21, 2017

UMass hockey can’t take advantage of strong start in 6-1 loss to Boston College -

January 21, 2017

High-powered Eagles soar past UMass -

January 21, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

January 19, 2017

UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

January 13, 2017

UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

Dacko believes more size will contribute to wins

Last year was considered one of the strongest years the Atlantic 10 has ever seen from its women’s basketball teams.

Massachusetts, however, did not factor much into that truth, as it finished 11th in the conference. With a new approach for 2009-10, UMass coach Marnie Dacko expects to surprise a lot of people.

Statistics show that the Minutewomen were outdone offensively by their competition last year, but not much can be said about their defensive efforts, either.

Last year, UMass’ competition owned the rights to superior rebounding, stealing and blocking. However, Dacko saw great improvement on the defensive side of the ball this preseason, and is convinced that the offense will feed off of that.

“The bottom line is playing solid defense,” Dacko said. “No matter what BU runs against us we want to get stops. Our focus point is getting stops, rebounding the basketball, and having that ignites our offense.”

Rebounding is one category the Minutewomen kept pace with last year when their opposition averaged one more rebound per game. The loss of last year’s leading rebounder, Teya Wright, may appear to hurt UMass’ ability to grab rebounds, but new additions along with experienced big women could prove otherwise.

Incoming freshmen include guard Dee Montgomery, forward Shakia Robinson and center Jasmine Watson. The 6-foot-1 Robinson and the 6-foot-3 Watson will give the Minutewomen size in the frontcourt and Dacko hopes the two will help rebounds become a strong point in the stat sheet.

New offense features strong post

For the second time in as many years, UMass will enter the season under a new, up-tempo offensive system. Last year the Minutewomen began their season inexperienced with their offensive strategy. This year is different.

“We understand our offense much better, we’re much further along at this point in time [than we were last year],” Dacko said.

The offense will look to distribute the ball to all five positions on the court in order to get balanced scoring. Dacko believes that bench participation will be important, as well as high fitness levels for her players.

“Right now we’re a very fit team,” she said. “We want to keep the games up-tempo and move the basketball around.”

One of the most important aspects of the offense this year will revolve around the post, where Dacko believes her team is greatly improved. Nicole Jones, a 6-foot-2 center, will play a larger role in the post this year and should see significant increases in her minutes and points. The additions of Robinson and Watson will also play a big impact in the post position, as their strength and size should be hard to defend.

Kristina Danella was one of the few bright spots for the Minutewomen last year, as the forward was second in the team in points and named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team. Her prolific scoring and impact on the court is making her a young leader for the Minutewomen.

The loss of star guards Sakera Young and Stefanie Gerardot to graduation has the Minutewomen stretched fairly thin at the one and two spots. Of the 11 players on the roster, six are slotted as guards. It is clear that a lot of mixing and matching will be going on to start the season, as Dacko will search for the right backcourt to complement the frontcourt.

Steve Levine can be reached at slevine@student.umass.edu.

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