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UMass focusing on themselves to prepare for Mississippi

Maria Uminski/Collegian

For a moment, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team appeared to be righting the ship following a 65-61 win over Ohio.

However, since that five-game skid-snapping win, the Minutewomen (2-7) have fallen victim to both Miami (Ohio) and Boston University by a combined score of 123-90.

Despite the pair of defeats, when UMass takes the court against Mississippi on Saturday afternoon, there will yet be a chance to salvage a split in the team’s first road trip of the season.

Coach Sharon Dawley held a quick team practice before the Minutewomen boarded the bus to face the Rebels (4-2), who are coming off a road loss of their own, falling 57-54 to Louisiana Tech last Saturday.

Dawley admitted that her players’ struggles on the offensive side of the ball are causing the team the most trouble.

“We’re having trouble scoring so we’re just trying to execute sharper,” Dawley said. “We’re just getting a little more shooting in.”

The Minutewomen had three double-digit scorers on Wednesday night in Boston, Rashida Timbilla (13) points, Millie Niggeling (11) and Jasmine Watson (10). While she expects more of her players to be scoring, she also offered a challenge to those who are already putting up points on the stat sheet.

“The ones that are scoring should be able to give us more,” Dawley said. “I also think that everyone on the floor should be able to give us a couple buckets because we’re getting good shots, but obviously our field goal percentage will illustrate the fact that we’re not shooting well enough.”

Even though the 3 p.m. tipoff in Oxford, Miss., is just a few days away, the Minutewomen are paying little attention to their opposition.

“Our strategy for the next few days is going to be ‘take care of us’ and not worry so much about the opponent,” Dawley said.

Diara Moore and Valencia McFarland lead the offensive attack for the Rebels, scoring 13.7 and 10 points per game, respectively. McFarland is also a threat to dent Dawley’s desire for her team to protect the ball having averaged 3.7 steals per game through the first six games.

Senior Dee Montgomery agreed with her coach’s “take care of ourselves” strategy while also believing that the team will be able to work itself out of the current poor shooting stretch.

“At the end of the day it will just come down to us putting the ball in the basket,” Montgomery said. “Overall, we’re getting what we want offensively (and) defensively, getting all the efforts that we need but it seems that we just can’t put the ball in the hole.

“Once that happens that will turn everything around.”

It hasn’t been all gloom on the offensive end for UMass. Timbilla, a freshman, added 11 rebounds to her 13 points against the Terriers, to mark her third double-double in her rookie collegiate campaign.

Watson is also on her way back to 100 percent following a concussion which saw her sidelined for a pair of games. She returned against the RedHawks in Ohio, then played increased minutes in Boston. The senior co-captain has been itching to get back to full strength.

“I’m pretty much ready to go at this point,” Watson said. “I’m one of those players where if I get taken away from it then it makes me appreciate the game more.

“My health is important and I’m back to normal, but I’m just trying to get back into the flow of being that dominant player that my team needs right now.

Watson believes that her team needs a statement game to get the young season back on track before conference play begins.

“There are the little fixable things that we need to get done that it will take for us to get on that roll, and I think this is the perfect opportunity for us to get it done,” Watson said. “It is a good team and we’re on the road. We need a road win, a good road win.

“We’re just coming together as a team.”

With the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule nearing ever closer, the time to come together is now, and the next step in the process is getting past Mississippi on Saturday.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at jokerman@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @MDC_Okerman.

 

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