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

Danella contributing with improved free throw shooting

Concentration and confidence is the mantra that the Massachusetts women’s basketball team coaching staff tells Kristina Danella to think about when she steps to the foul line.

This year, as a sophomore, Danella already has taken 47 free throw attempts for the Minutewomen. She has almost 20 attempts more than the next player on the list, but what stands out is that, after the Wyndham Miami Thanksgiving Tournament, she has made 42 of those free throws on the season.

In UMass’ victory over Rice on Saturday, coach Greg Williams applied a strategy where his team would intentionally foul the Minutewomen with less than two minutes to play even though the Owls trailed by eight. Williams’ game plan backfired, as his team repeatedly fouled Danella, and she sunk every shot at the free-throw line.

Danella not only finished that game a perfect 12-of-12 from the free-throw line, but also went 9-of-9 in the championship game of the tournament. In fact, Danella is on a remarkable stretch, as she now has 31 consecutive baskets from the free-throw line this year.

“She’s just a great shooter, and when you work hard and you fight, and try to get into the lanes, you’re going to get fouled,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said of her team’s leading scorer. “When you get fouled it’s how you make teams pay.”

With UMass down by three points and with less than 30 seconds to play in the team’s home opener against Boston University this season, Danella pump faked her defender into the air and drew contact on a 3-point shot instead of shooting a clean jumper to tie the game. She then stepped onto the line and into the spotlight, with the game’s outcome resting in her hands.

“I love that.” Danella said comfortably when asked about the pressure. “I want to be the one shooting with the game on the line.”

Danella then confidently drained all three free throws and sent the game into overtime, giving UMass the momentum to eventually pull a comeback.

A great free-throw shooter always has a set routine, and Danella is no different. She lines up in the middle of the basket by looking down into the nail in the court’s floor, aligns her right foot inches further forward than her left, spreads her legs just tighter than her shoulders’ width apart, spins the ball with both hands, takes a dribble with her right hand and simply shoots.

She led New Jersey’s Shore Conference with 84 percent free-throw shooting in her high school career, but the mark dropped to 74 percent in her freshman year at UMass. This year, Danella not only improved her percentage to 89 percent, but is also making free throws more consistently with more attempts.

Danella doesn’t think her efficiency improved because of any main difference in technique or practice, but thinks that she always shot well. Dacko also denies having any major effect on Danella’s shot by practicing.

“I’m not taking any credit for her free throws,” Dacko said. “She does it, and she’s earned it, and it’s really what they do mentally.”

This year Dacko has given her more freedom on offense, and Danella (15.5 points per game) has learned to draw fouls when driving to the hoop – a technique she modeled after WNBA star Diana Taurasi.

“Last year. I wasn’t a driver and all Coach Dacko wanted me to do was shoot,” Danella said. “So now that she said I can drive, I went back to my old ways and it’s working so far.”

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

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