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Minutewomen host George Washington

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Injury plagued and down on its luck, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team looks to gain some momentum today when it welcomes George Washington into the Mullins Center.

The Minutewomen (7-12, 1-3 Atlantic 10) have lost three of their last four games, while also enduring a barrage of injuries.

UMass hopes to have all of its players back in uniform for today’s game after suffering injuries to Jasmine Watson, Kristina Danella and Stephanie Lawrence.

 Today’s game against the Colonials (4-14, 1-4 A-10,) could set the Minutewomen straight, although they don’t play well at home.

“This is a very big game for us,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “We’ve got to win at home… It’s important for us to do well in the Mullins Center. This team seems to be much more relaxed on the road. It’s just a matter of coming out with intensity and focus for 40 minutes.”

The Minutewomen were close to pulling off an upset against conference-leading Duquesne a week ago, but ultimately lost in overtime, 63-54. The game highlighted certain things that Dacko wanted to practice before hosting George Washington.

“We’re trying to work with two big players in [at the same time]: a combination of Nicole Jones, Jasmine Watson, and Shakia Robinson,” Dacko said. “It’s advantageous for us to go with bigger players, and when we add the size, we get more rebounding inside. However, it also disrupts our offensive tempo. But we’re spending more and more time being able to play with two bigs on the floor.”

UMass generates most of its scoring from its post players. Receiving more production from the guard positions would be a huge plus.

“Kim [Benton] and Diatema [Hill] really do a good job running the backcourt and making everything click,” Dacko said. “I would like to see Danella have a good game shooting and also Megan Zullo to come in and have a good game.”

Dacko, aware that her team leads the league in turnovers, has been preaching slower play and overall ball control as well.

After playing two of the strongest teams in the A-10 in Richmond and Duquesne, UMass is happy to welcome George Washington, which sits second to last in the standings.

UMass has one more thing working in their favor today – a stadium full of fans. The unusual 11:45 a.m. start time is due to “Field Trip Day”, where numerous local elementary schools will fill the seats at the Mullins Center.

“It’s going to be a great day for us because 4,000 kids are coming,” Dacko said. “The Mullins Center will be very, very loud. It’s always fun to have the young kids come in and get them excited.”

Aside from the large crowd, Dacko is also excited to play the Colonials, but she will not take them lightly.

“They like to run and play fast,” Dacko said. “They just beat La Salle, 58-50. They’re the ones on the road so we have to be able to take them down a notch.”

George Washington boasts one of the superior centers in the league in Sara Mostafa. In 18 games this season, the 6-foot-5 Mostafa averages 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. She also leads her team in blocks, with 22.

“They’ve got Mostafa inside who is really good,” Dacko said. “We have to take her game away, push the ball up in transition, get up and just play smart basketball.”

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

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