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Minutewomen seeks second conference win

With the midway point of conference play on the horizon, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team will travel to Rhode Island tomorrow afternoon as both teams try to snap their respective losing streaks and better position themselves for a run at an Atlantic 10 tournament berth.

The Minutewomen enter tomorrow’s matchup tied with Saint Louis for 11th place in the A-10 with a conference record of 1-4 (7-13 overall), while URI (9-12, 2-4 A-10) is tied with George Washington for ninth place.

Retracting a statement she made criticizing her team after Wednesday’s loss to George Washington, UMass coach Marnie Dacko praised her squad’s effort and hard work.

“The team is trying hard,” Dacko said. “They just have to trust and believe in themselves. The effort is there. The end result is not always what you want.”

If UMass fails to take advantage of their opportunities, the team could face another disappointing loss. During their current three-game losing streak, the Minutewomen are failing to take advantage of many wide open looks under the basket.

The team is also struggling from the foul line, a place where it usually excels. The Minutewomen are second in the A-10 in free throw shooting, converting their attempts 75.1 percent of the time.

“A coach’s job is to get open looks,” Dacko said. “We got open looks, you have to make point black layups and you have to make free throws. We were one of the better free throw shooting teams in the conference, so you have to step up and make them from the foul line.”

With both teams’ tendencies to turn the ball over, this could be one of the most turnover-plagued games in the A-10 this season.

UMass and URI are the two worst teams in the conference in turnover margin, and both are top five in total turnovers. The Minutewomen average 5.9 more turnovers per game than their opponents, while the Rams average 3.6 more than their foes.

“Most of our turnovers are unforced.” Dacko said. “We are trying to have the kids slow down, pause, and take a look around. We don’t exhaust the [shot clock], so we have time to slow things down and see the whole court.”

After winning its first two conference games against UMass and George Washington, URI is limping into tomorrow’s game in the midst of a brutal four-game losing streak.

The Rams dropped two winnable games to A-10 cellar dwellers Saint Louis and Fordham and were also victimized by powerhouses Temple and Xavier, dropping the four games by an average of nearly 16 points. The worst loss came at the hands of first-place Xavier (15-3, 5-0 A-10), which crushed URI, 88-60.

The Rams offense is led by the trio of junior Megan Shoniker, freshman Ashley Rivera and senior Lindsay Harris. Shoniker is the team leader with 11.1 points per game, with Rivera and Harris not far behind with averages of 10.5 and 10.3 ppg, respectively.

Harris leads the A-10 with 197 total rebounds, while her average of 9.9 per game is also best in the conference. She’s also tied with LaSalle junior Ashley Gale for fifth in steals with 39 on the season.

Shoniker is second on the team and ninth in the conference with 2.9 assists per game, while Rivera is shooting 40.7 percent from beyond the arc and is third in the A-10 with 48 3-point field goals.

Tomorrow’s game will be the second matchup between UMass and URI this season. The Rams defeated the Minutewomen, 58-57, in Amherst on Jan. 9 to open conference play. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at the Ryan Center in Kingston, RI.

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

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