Younger players see increased roles
The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has a starting five that can usually score points, but even the most potent offense can stall and fortunately for the Minutewomen, they have a bench that can step up and play well when necessary.
In two out of the last three games, UMass has recorded at least three players in double figures in points. In a game against Saint Louis, four players reached double-digits and three of them were everyday starters. Senior Cerie Mosgrove has gone 10 consecutive games with at least 10 points, and guard Megan Zullo is just five 3-pointers away from the school’s all-time record in a single season.
Yet in Wednesday night’s matchup against Temple, the intensity and fire that makes the starting five so good was absent from the Mullins Center. Mosgrove was the high scorer in the game, but managed only 13 points, the same number as the other four players combined.
“[The starters] weren’t good,” UMass head coach Sharon Dawley said. “With a bad starter, you might as well go see if there’s somebody better on the bench than a bad starter.”
Instead, it was the sixth, seventh and eight players off the bench who paced the offense. Two of those players are freshmen and the other, Shakia Robinson, is a sophomore who tallied just over 100 minutes all of last season.
“It’s always good to see a young kid getting better,” Dawley said. “There have been moments where we can visually see that a kid is getting better. I see them getting better with a good offseason and a good summer.”
The highest point total off the bench came from Robinson, who has played just as much as any starter this season while filling in for injured forward Jasmine Watson for much of the year. Robinson scored 11 points and added an assist, a steal, and a block in the paint. In a game against Saint Joseph’s last week, she poured in 25 points off the bench and was the team’s leading scorer.
Freshmen Talen Watson and Kelly Robinson each played over 10 minutes in the contest, jumping at the opportunity to lead the offensive attack and coordinate the team’s play on both ends of the court. Watson netted four points and moved the ball successfully against the Owl defense and Robinson contributed five points and three assists.
“Talen was good today off the bench,” Dawley said. “Like I said in the locker room, if the starters continue to play this badly, a kid like that is going to come right in and take away minutes from them. She came off the bench and played well, and she’s going to get more minutes.”
Even freshman Sara English, who doesn’t play much unless Jasmine Watson, Mosgrove and Shakia fall apart in front of her, has come in and asserted herself. Although she had no points against Temple, Dawley praised her efforts and envisions that she will continue to help the team off the bench in the future.
“I think with freshman it’s day-to-day,” Dawley said. “Freshman could come in and play well against Temple or be deathly afraid of Temple. Sara may have been a little intimidated today, but against Saint Joe’s she was fantastic. She’ll be fine.”
Michael Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.