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Minutewomen seek much-needed win

With the playoffs looming, wins are as important as ever.

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team will look to even out its homestand with a win on Saturday, when it hosts Atlantic 10 rival Fordham in an afternoon matinee. The game will take place on National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

UMass (8-14, 2-5 A-10) suffered a home court loss on Tuesday when they played St. Bonaventure (17-6, 5-3 A-10). It’s been a difficult year for the Minutewomen at the Mullins Center, who have not won a game there since Nov. 22, when they defeated Villanova, 55-47.

Fordham (8-15, 2-6 A-10) should be an easier matchup for UMass. The Minutewomen have not lost to the Rams in four straight meetings dating back to 2005. In the 30 all-time meetings, UMass owns a 20-9 record.

The Rams have played much better as of late, winning two of their last four games against La Salle and Rhode Island. Against La Salle on Jan. 30, Fordham greatly benefitted from the performance by Randall Hurst, who registered 20 points, six rebounds, one assist and two steals en route to the Rams’ 57-47 victory.

Hurst, a senior forward, will garner much attention from the UMass defense. With 14.3 points per game, Hurst leads her team and ranks fourth in the conference, three spots ahead of UMass’ leading scorer, Kristina Danella, who averages 13.5 ppg.

Hurst is among the league leaders in several categories including rebounding (6.6 per game), field goal percentage (.447) and minutes played (32.5 per game).

She will have her hands full against the Minutewomen frontcourt, especially against the revolving centers of Jasmine Watson and Nicole Jones.

Watson averages 2.5 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks eighth in the conference. The freshman also averages 1.2 blocks per game, good for seventh in the A-10.

Jones shows her paint presence mostly by denying shots, as her average of 1.5 blocks per game ranks fourth in the conference. On Jan. 20 against Duquesne, Jones made history by registering eight blocks, which tied a school record previously set by Kate Mills in 2008 and Helen Freeman in 1988.

This game is critical for the Minutewomen, whose schedule gets significantly tougher during the upcoming weeks. In order to come away with a win, it is crucial for UMass to shoot accurately from the field. As much as the Minutewomen enjoy scoring from the paint, they also enjoy scoring from beyond the arc. UMass has two sharpshooters in Megan Zullo and Danella, whose shooting must be reliable for tomorrow and the weeks to come.

UMass has to limit its amount of fouls as well. The Minutewomen average 14.9 fouls per game, ranking them 25th in the nation.

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

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