It is unlikely that this far into the college basketball season, a team would have a losing record at home, but the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is the exception.
With a home record of just 2-8 on the season, UMass head coach Marnie Dacko is still trying to find a reason for the team’s home woes. Dacko and the rest of the coaching staff believe that the Minutewomen (8-13, 2-4 Atlantic 10) continue to practice better than they play. In fact, the team wore its game uniforms in practice yesterday afternoon in an effort to turn back the trend.
“I was going to do this a couple weeks ago, and it’s really simple…” Dacko said. “I don’t want them to have any distractions, so its just playing in a white uniform, and proving the point that they can shoot in their home uniforms.”
UMass returns home fresh off of a 71-61 win against Rhode Island over the weekend. Tonight, the Minutewomen will attempt to carry the momentum gained on the road into the Mullins Center, where they will face off against St. Bonaventure.
“The kids are still working hard,” Dacko said of the team’s attitude. “Their heads are up, and to be honest, I’m happy to be home. This is a great test because St. Bonaventure is a great team.”
The Bonnies (16-6, 4-3) won last year’s contest between the teams 67-44 in St. Bonaventure, N.Y., and were led by Dana Mitchell, who had 12 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line and five rebounds in the game. Mitchell played with a stress fracture last year, and still managed 15.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
The forward was named to last season’s All Atlantic-10 second team, and this year was selected to the 2009 Preseason All-Conference first team. Mitchell had 18 points and five rebounds in the Bonnies’ 64-54 road win over Temple on Saturday.
St. Bonaventure has now won two straight games, and is seventh in the conference. The Bonnies are coached by Jim Crowley, who is in his 10th year at the team’s helm.
“We’ve got to be able to not only play her [Mitchell], but also step out against the perimeter players,” Dacko said of the defensive strategy, against not only Mitchell, but the entire Bonnies team. “They shoot very well from the three, they’re a very seasoned team, and they keep you honest. You cannot really key in on one player because they have a very balanced attack.”
The Minutewomen are finally getting back to full strength after a string of ankle injuries to Kristina Danella, Jasmine Watson and Stephanie Lawrence left the team trying to recover in the midst of their conference schedule. Danella finally got back into form in the team’s game against URI, scoring 17 points to lead the Minutewomen.
UMass displayed they are still one of the best shooting teams in the A-10 against URI, making 44.4 percent from the field.
“We executed so well at URI,” Dacko said of the team’s success. “I think it was just them being able to play loose, and we’ve tried to instill that in them all season long.”
The Minutewomen had their largest lead of the season when they went up by 23 points in the second half.
“When we don’t play well it’s a combination of us not knocking down open shots and turning the ball over,” Dacko said. “We’ve got to be able to do three things at all times, and that’s control the boards, take care of the basketball, and knock down open shots.”
Neil Carroll can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.