Scrolling Headlines:

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

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Free throws crucial to Minutewomen’s success.

In the game of basketball, sometimes free throws are overlooked.

That has not been the case for Massachusetts women’s basketball team lately, which now owns the best free throw percentage in the Atlantic 10, at 78.9 percent.

Leading the way for the Minutewomen at the line is sophomore forward Kristina Danella, who has not missed a free throw in her last 27 opportunities.

“She’s just a tremendous shooter,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “I’m just happy that she’s getting fouled.”

Last Friday against Rice, Danella led all scorers with 21 points (12 free throws). Her perfect free throw percentage matched a program single game record, last set by Melissa Gurile who made all 15 shots against Providence in 1993. UMass finished the game hitting 22-of-23 from the charity stripe (95.7 percent), the best mark of any team in the A-10 this season.

“It’s huge,” Dacko said. “So much of our offense is dictated by getting to the hoop and getting fouled. “It’s not good if we get to the bucket, get fouled and don’t hit free throws.”

The Minutewomen rely on their post players to get inside and get to the basket, increasing their chances of getting fouled along the way. Although free throws are a large part of UMass’ game, it would be impractical to spend a lot of time on it during practice.

“Right now I’m just focused on players getting to the line and making shots,” she said. “Our short term goals are dictated game by game. We definitely want to outrebound opponents and get to the foul line. Most of our emphasis is on defense and how it should create our offense. We don’t put a lot of emphasis on free throw shooting because when our players get to the line they know they have to make the shots.”

Right now, Danella ranks fourth in the A-10 with an 89.4 percent free throw percentage. Her streak of 27 straight free-throws is the longest by a Minutewomen since Kathy Coyner converted 31 straight in 1998.

“I want more of our post players getting to the bucket and getting fouled more so they can get to the line,” Dacko said. “I just hope [Danella] is contagious so everyone else can step up to the line and knock them down like she does.”

The best example of Danella’s timely shooting came in the season opener against Boston University. She went to the line after getting fouled from 3-point range with 17 seconds in the game and tied the game. UMass eventually won, 79-73.

Free throw shooting comes down to the individual player. It is the most independent aspect of the team sport. For the most part, Dacko’s players are on their own when it comes to foul shooting.

“The kids know what they have to do,” Dacko said. “It’s such a mental preparation and they have to get in their own routine. What we preach is that [practicing free throws] is up to them. If kids are having problems with it then we’ll force their hand and have them practice it a little more but for the most part, they work a lot on it themselves.”

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

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