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Minutewomen host Vermont

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team will face one of its toughest opponents this season tonight as it will host Vermont, a team that comes into the game with a 7-1 record and poses a formidable threat with leading scorers Courtnay Pilypaitis and May Kotsopoulos.

Pilypaitis is a 6-foot-1 guard who can shoot the ball just as well as she can drive to the basket. The senior is averaging 19.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

She is also shooting 43 percent from the 3-point range and 86 percent from the foul line in 36 attempts. However, Pilypaitis is not the Catamounts’ only option on offense.

 Kotsopoulos (18.8 ppg) has also proven she is a scorer this season by coming off of a 29-point performance in a win against Holy Cross. The Catamounts won, 78-56, on Monday night.

For UMass, this will be the first home game in more than two weeks, dating back to a 55-47 win over Villanova on Nov 12.

 “It’s challenging,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said of the early season schedule. “But we really didn’t set up this pre-conference schedule for the weary. [The losses to Northeastern and New Hampshire] are going to come back to haunt us, and I have that in my pocket.”

The Minutewomen come into the game with two straight wins in the Brown Bear Classic, where they beat both opponents by double-digit margins. In the last win, UMass cruised to an 82-66 victory in the championship game against Quinnipiac.

Against Quinnipiac, senior guard Diatiema Hill enjoyed the first double-double of her career with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Megan Zullo also had a solid performance by converting 6-of-8 3-point attempts on the way to her first 20-point effort in a UMass uniform.

Hill and UMass sophomore Kristina Danella garnered All-Tournament honors for their performances over the weekend. Danella ended the weekend with 29 points and 13 rebounds.

UMass is off to a 5-4 start this season and will look to build momentum off of two consecutive wins. UVM however, is now also coming off of back-to-back victories.

 “Vermont is playing very good basketball, and Providence is playing very good basketball as well,” Dacko said of this week’s schedule. “We’re happy to come back to the Mullins Center and hopefully we’ll get a great crowd.”

Last year, the Catamounts won the America East Tournament and consequently advanced to the NCAA Tournament. On a bigger stage, UVM did not have as much luck, as they lost to Connecticut in the first round, 104-65.

The Catamounts also went up against UConn this year but lost, 84-42, on Dec 3. In that game, Pilypaitis led UVM with 20 points.

Last year, the Minutewomen went to Vermont for the season opener and lost, 83-69. In the victory over UMass, UVM’s Pilypaitis recorded a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

UMass will have to battle underneath the hoop for rebounds against the

Catamounts’ tall lineup. Four out of the five starters for UVM are listed at six feet or taller.

Although Dacko continues to preach rebounding to her team, the Minutewomen were out-rebounded in both games of the Brown Bear Classic, but survived thanks to points off of the bench. UMass has 43 points from non-starters in the win against Brown, and 38 points from non-starters in the championship game against Quinnipiac.

“These kids are coming together,” Dacko said of her team’s effort so far. “We’re still a work in progress but I’m really proud of them.”

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

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