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September 21, 2016

Minutewomen host St. John’s

Fresh off of a 79-73 overtime win against Boston University, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team will take on St. John’s on Wednesday at home, and hope to open the season, 2-0.

The last time the Minutewomen won the first two games of a season was in coach Marnie Dacko’s first year as head coach in 2002-03, when Jennifer Butler, who averaged 17.5 points and 14.7 rebounds per game, led the Minutewomen.

Dacko was pleased with this year’s season opening win on Monday, but thinks the Minutewomen will have to use a much different approach to match up with the Red Storm on Wednesday.

“We don’t match up with them well,” Dacko said on Tuesday. “But I think if we go with a smaller line up, they’re not going to match up with us well either.”

St. John’s won its first game of the year against Stony Brook, 89-52, on Sunday, and presents a huge offensive force in Da’Shena Stevens. As a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward for the Red Storm, she won Rookie of the Year in the Big East last year and scored 22 points for the team while shooting 9-of-10 from the field.

UMass sophomore Kristina Danella scored 21 points for the Minutewomen on Monday, and will have to come up big for the team on Wednesday. However, in the win against the Terriers, Kim Benton, Diatiema Hill and Nicole Jones also scored in double figures for UMass.

St. John’s held its opponents to 59 points so the Minutewomen will have to try and break through the defense of Shenneika Smith. She finished the game with two steals, three blocks, eight rebounds and 17 points for the Red Storm.

“Fortunately for us we’re playing at home,” Dacko said. “We didn’t have an opportunity to really get into our offense against BU, and hopefully we’ll be able to settle down against St. John’s.”

Dacko also pointed out that her team needs to do a better job rebounding on defense early on in the season.

“We really have to box out,” she said. “I think we gave up 10 points in the first half on second chance opportunities, and we can’t afford to do that.”

The Minutewomen, however, did show off their defense and height in the opening win against BU. Forwards Nicole Jones and Jasmine Watson had three blocks each, and Jones finished the game with a team-leading nine rebounds.

In the win against BU, UMass was down 10-3 early on in the first half, but still came back to tie the game up in the closing possessions. UMass’ Danella hit three free-throws with 17 seconds left in the game in order to give the Minutewomen a share of the lead for their first time in the opener.

Although the comeback was not the preferred way to win the game, it showed that the team can play with the pressure on.

Dacko believes that her team needs to break the game down piece by piece in order to play with a more aggressive team in order to pull off the win.

“We’ve got to be able to manage to put short terms together and play 10-minute increments of a 40-minute game and just be able to execute within those 10 minutes as the game goes on,” Dacko said.

After the game against St. John’s on Wednesday, the team will face New Hampshire on Friday night in Durham, N.H.

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

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