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Minutewomen hope to knock off Temple in Philly

 Maybe the momentum has finally arrived.

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has won two of its last three games for the first time since early December. It will look to win three of four for the first time this season when it travels to Pennsylvania today to face Temple.

The Owls (17-6, 6-2 Atlantic 10) are on a two-game winning streak as well wins in seven of their last eight contests. Their last victory came on the road against La Salle, where they defeated the Explorers, 55-34. The lopsided victory was indicative of the Owls’ successful season thus far, which features a prominent scorer in sophomore forward Kristen McCarthy.

McCarthy, whose average of 13.2 points per game ranks eighth in the conference, scored 15 points in Temple’s last game, while adding four rebounds and two assists. McCarthy also averages 1.7 steals per game.

Like Temple, UMass boasts another skilled sophomore shooter in Kristina Danella. She currently sits two spots ahead of McCarthy in league scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game and also averages 5.8 rebounds per game.

Perhaps what stands out most about the young forward is her superior accuracy both at the line and behind the arc. Danella’s 87.2 free-throw percentage is second in the conference behind only Fordham’s Kristina Bell (88.1).

From 3-point range, Danella ranks sixth in the A-10 with an average of 1.9 made per game and has a 39.6 3-point percentage. Since conference play, however, Danella has shot at a 53.3 percent clip.

With the two sophomores aside, the game’s outcome could come down to defense. Temple’s offense averages less than one point more than UMass. However, its defense allows an average of 10 fewer points per game. At 53.6 points allowed per game, the Owls rank second in the league.

Temple is one of the few teams that ranks ahead of UMass in rebounding margin. The Owls average 39.3 rebounds per game and allow 32.7 from opponents for a margin of plus 6.6. The Minutewomen average 37 rebounds per game and allow 34.3 for a margin of plus 2.7.

One player the Owls will look out for is freshman Jasmine Watson. The center was recently named A-10 Rookie of the Week and is coming off a dominant performance where she registered 21 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and an assist against Fordham.

Temple’s average of 9.8 steals per game ranks third in the conference, and could pose a threat to UMass’ weaknesses controlling the ball. UMass ranks last in the conference in turnover margin (-5.43) while Temple ranks fifth (1.13).

In the all-time series between the two teams, Temple owns a 29-19 record. On the road against the Owls, the Minutewomen are 8-16, with their last win coming in overtime on Feb. 15, 2002.

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

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