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September 21, 2016

Danella leading Minutewomen on offensive end

whoopDanellaAmid an up-and-down season for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, forward Kristina Danella continues to shine and prove that she is one of the best offensive talents in the Atlantic 10.

After showing promise during her freshman campaign, Danella is taking advantage of her increased playing time and becoming the Minutewomen’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Entering Saturday’s match up against Richmond, she is the team leader with averages of 14.3 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. She has also made a team-high 80 free throws in 91 attempts (87.9 percent).

Her scoring and rebounding numbers rank fourth and eighth in the A-10, respectively,  while she trails only Fordham’s Kristina Bell (93.2 percent) and UMass (7-10, 1-1 A-10) teammate Diatiema Hill (89.4 percent) in free throw percentage.

“I think I’m being more patient on offense and knowing when to shoot and not to shoot, and rebounding more, and picking up the defense a little more,” Danella said. “I know it’s still a work in progress, but I’ve picked it up a lot from last year.”

The key reasons for Danella’s success on the offensive end are her consistency and versatility. Defenses are forced to honor her presence on the court due to her ability to score in a variety of ways. She led UMass in scoring in 9 of her 16 games, and scored in double figures in 14 of them.

UMass coach Marnie Dacko says that “[Danella’s] done a very good job offensively. She’s a solid post player inside and she’s very good from the foul line.”

Because Danella’s numbers from 3-point range are down from last year, when she tied the UMass record for 3-point field goals in a season (58), getting to the foul line became an increasingly important part of her game. From Nov. 20-28 she knocked down 27 consecutive free throws, four shy of the UMass record of 31 set by Kathy Coyner in 1998.

Although they are down, her 3-point numbers should not be taken lightly. She is second on the Minutewomen with 29 made 3-pointers in 80 attempts (36.3 percent). She trails only Megan Zullo, who has 39 makes on 92 attempts (37.3 percent).

Dacko is not the only member of UMass impressed with Danella’s skills on the offensive end. In her first season playing alongside Danella, freshman forward Shakia Robinson was quick to praise her teammate’s scoring abilities.

“She’s a good shooter … also her post work has improved a lot,” Robinson said. “It’s just her nature. I think she’s a natural scorer.”

However, both Danella and Dacko said they agree that one area that has lots of room for improvement is Danella’s ability to communicate while on the floor.

“The coaches talk to me about being a better communicator because I’m quiet and don’t really talk [on the court],” Danella said. “So I’m continuing to work on that – I’m not the vocal leader on the court, I’ll say that. But I’m just leading by my play I guess, because I don’t really speak.”

Dacko said she feels that by being more vocal, Danella will become a better team leader and thus a better overall, more well-rounded player.

“She’s scored more than 500 points already in her sophomore season and her voice is still silent out there. But in order to become a better player, she has to become the vocal leader of this team as well,” Dacko said.

Dacko also cited one problem in particular that not only plagues Danella, but the team as a whole. She cited the forward’s late decision making in games against New Hampshire and Rhode Island, saying she needs to be more disciplined and have more confidence in her skills, rather than trying to stay in her comfort zone.

“When you tend to doubt yourself as an individual is when you can’t knock [in] that delivery blow,” Dacko said. “That’s where we are as a team right now. We’ve played well enough to win ball games and were coming up short. We’re fragile instead of being able to compete and leave it all on the floor.”

Through 46 games, Danella already cemented her spot in the UMass record books. She is the leading scorer among active Minutewomen with 508 career points, which puts her 42nd all-time at UMass. She is the only player in the top 50 with less than 50 games played in her career. She is second among active players in rebounding with 246, trailing only Hill’s 259.

Mike Mastone can be reached at mmastone@student.umass.edu.

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