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Danella, defense lead UMass to win in season opener

whoopBIn the first game of the 2009-2010 campaign for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, sophomore Kristina Danella hit three free throws with 17 seconds left in regulation in order to send the game into overtime and give the Minutewomen a chance to win against Boston University.

“I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Danella said. “But that’s the spot I want to be in. I want to be on the foul line, and I wanted the chance to tie it for the team at that point.”

Danella, the leading scorer for the Minutewomen with 21 points, pump faked a three and sacrificed a clear 3-point attempt by jumping into her defender while shooting, in order to draw a foul. Last season as a freshman for the Minutewomen, she tied a school record by hitting a team-leading 58 3-pointers

The sophomore had made a 3-pointer earlier in Sunday’s game, but decided that she had a better chance to spur UMass to victory at the foul line.

“The free throws were huge,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said of her forward. “She came up on the line and iced three, and that gave the team confidence to go into overtime knowing that we could win the game.”

Throughout the game, Danella was guarded tightly by the BU defense but was still able to get around her defenders and into the lane. She got to the foul line 14 times in the game, but it was not only her offense that stood out.

“She did pass up some perimeter jumpers in exchange for trying to penetrate into the bucket,” Dacko said. “But she had some key rebounds down the stretch.”

Danella, who averaged six rebounds per game last year, had eight boards in the home win.

Defense does it all

Although it was Danella’s three free throws that tied the game late for the Minutewomen on Sunday against the Terriers, even the leading scorer for UMass pointed out that it was the team’s defense and rebounding that won the game.

“We just needed stops on defense,” said Danella. “In the first half and early into the second half we were struggling, but once we got stops on defense it carried over to the offensive side.”

The Minutewomen were able to limit the Terrier’s Aly Hinton to 13 points in 43 minutes through a rotation of three forwards on defense. Nicole Jones, along with help from freshmen Jasmine Watson and Shakia Robinson, pestered BU’s frontcourt.

Jones finished the game with three blocks, four steals and nine rebounds to add to her 13 points. Meanwhile, Robinson pulled down six rebounds in the game and Watson had three emphatic blocks in just 15 minutes of playing time that set the tone defensively for UMass.

“I think that we had to make the adjustments defensively to try and stop them because we were giving up too many easy looks,” Dacko said. “When we came out, they were going by, and when we came off of them they were hitting 3’s. So I think that it was just that we grinded it out and stayed with it and I’m just really proud of the way the kids finished the game.”

The Minutewomen defense continuously jumped entry passes intended for BU forwards Hinton and Kerry Cashman, forcing the Terriers to shoot from outside. UMass’s Jones Robinson and Watson also worked well by communicating with each other on defense.

For the game, the UMass defense forced 23 turnovers from the Terriers, and also held BU to making only 1-of-8 shots in the overtime period.

Neil Carroll can be reached at nacarrol@student.umass.edu.

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