After capping its home opener with an exclamation point by defeating Kent State, 83-53, last Saturday, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team (1-1) heads into Friday’s challenge against Quinnipiac looking to establish the Mullins Center as a tough place for opponents to win in.
After falling to Central Connecticut on Tuesday, coach Sharon Dawley said the battle with the Bobcats (1-0) is a crucial chance for her team to gain momentum.
“Friday’s huge for us, it’s momentum, it’s a home game and it’s (a chance) to right what we did wrong (on Tuesday),” Dawley said. “It would be a great game to come off and travel on. These early games are important.
“I think when you look back on last year, we had opportunities we didn’t seize that would’ve got momentum going and may have changed the tide, changed the way the season went, so Friday night is a huge win for us if we can get it.”
Standing in the way of the Minutewomen is a Quinnipiac team that finished the 2011-12 campaign with a 22-10 record, including a 13-5 mark in Northeast Conference play.
Returning their top four scorers from last season, the Bobcats’ most significant threats are senior guard Felicia Barron, sophomore guard Jasmine Martin, junior forward Brittany McQuain and sophomore forward Samantha Guastella, as the four led the charge for QU in its season-opening win against James Madison last Sunday.
With memories of a 66-63 defeat on Nov. 29, 2011, at Quinnipiac, the Minutewomen look for redemption as they come into the matchup with a different makeup than last year’s squad.
Sophomore scoring leader Emily Mital and senior center Jasmine Watson power the UMass attack, scoring 19 and 18.5 points per game, respectively.
Mital, who set career highs in points in each of the first two games, said her success and comfort level came from offseason work.
“Just working in the offseason (was preparation),” Mital said. “Right now my confidence is really high ‘cause I’ve been in the gym shooting, so I have the confidence to shoot the ball in the game and coach has given me the green light. I really don’t think about the points, I’m just thinking about, ‘If I’m open, I’m shooting it,’ because that’s what my role is.”
Dawley praised Mital for her production and effort behind-the-scenes.
“She’s just phenomenal,” Dawley said. “She is living proof that if you do a lot on your own, if you work on your game, great things can happen. She’s not that big, not the fastest kid on the court either, but she’s gonna get her open shots and she’s going to make them.”
Dawley added that she wants her entire squad to be contributing to the scoring, just like the 11 different players who got on the board against Kent State.
“We need to be hitting in different ways,” Dawley said. “Our goal is to be on five cylinders on offense. We had 11 people score against Kent State and if Mital and Watson don’t score, that’s OK as long as everyone else is picking up the slack. If teams want to focus on those two, we should have the ability to score from other places.”
Friday’s tip-off against the Bobcats is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Cappiello.