The Massachusetts women’s basketball team, while on a six-game slide, has been keeping the early season non-conference games relatively close, losing four of its six games by five points or less.
Other than a blowout loss on the road to Miami (Ohio), UMass has been within striking distance of all of its opponents, the closest of which was a three-point loss to Central Connecticut at home in overtime on Nov. 16.
Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley, while disappointed that the team hasn’t come away with one of these close games, made it clear that she has been encouraged by her team’s performance.
“We’re so close to grabbing that first win in a while and running from there,” Dawley said in a UMassAthletics.com interview. “We’re playing great teams, quality teams and we’re right there. [We’re] a couple of rebounds [and] lay-ups away from beating good teams.”
However, Dawley recognizes that eventually those lay-ups are going to have to fall and the rebounding in crunch time will have to improve, adding that the Minutewomen will have to start “finishing the task” if they are going to start racking up some wins.
UMass will have to face another non-conference opponent on the road when it takes on Boston College Wednesday night.
Learning without practice
While on their road trip, which saw the team go from Hampden, Conn. to Fairfax, Va., the Minutewomen have not had as much time to practice as they are accustomed to.
Putting in new sets and getting better accustomed to the offensive and defensive schemes can get more difficult in that situation. Despite all that, Dawley has been impressed with the way the girls have handled their road schedule thus far.
“We threw a junk defense in there at the end [against George Mason] that the girls really haven’t had a time to practice and it worked. You’re always encouraged when kids are able to stuff like that for you on the fly,” Dawley said.
The Minutewomen won’t see this many road games in such a short span again until the beginning of February, when UMass will be in the thick of their conference schedule.
During that period, the Minutewomen are slated for a stretch of four of five games on the road. That will include games at Charlotte, La Salle, Temple and Saint Louis, with a home game versus St. Bonaventure in between. Last season, UMass struggled on the road, going 1-12.
Time off beneficial
With six days in between the games at George Mason and BC, the Minutewomen will have had some time to help build on what they accomplished out on the road.
Dawley said she was pleased with the amount of leadership and communication she saw against the Patriots, but also realized that coming back home should prove to be a big help towards the team’s success.
“I think it’s good,” said Dawley. “One, I think we need just to be home a little bit. And we need to refine stuff that we’ve tried to put in on the road that hasn’t had enough time. This effort [against George Mason] is preparing us to beat BC at their place on Wednesday.”
Last season, in games after at least having five days off, the Minutewomen were 2-3, losing to LSU, Maryland and Maine while defeating both Rhode Island and Wagner.
This gap in play will be the second longest for the Minutewomen this season. After UMass plays Maine on Dec. 11, it will have eight days before it travels to Binghamton, N.Y. for a 6 p.m. game against the Bearcats.
Eric Mansfield can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Mansfield.