The Massachusetts women’s basketball team returns home to the Mullins Center tonight to host an early bird special with Atlantic 10 Conference opponent La Salle.
Hundreds of students from local grade schools will be in attendance for the special 11:45 a.m. tipoff as part of the team’s annual “Field Trip Day” promotion.
The Minutewomen (3-17, 1-4 A-10) are looking to rebound from their 83-44 blowout defeat by No. 17 Dayton on Sunday. They haven’t won since opening their conference schedule with a 62-58 defeat of George Washington at home on Jan. 12.
“I don’t know if a loss helps your focus necessarily,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said of the lessons to be learned from the Flyers game. “It helps with urgency, for sure, but I hope that our focus is consistent game in and game out, win or loss. But it’s more urgency (that) elevates (with) each loss we have.”
Third-year coach Jeff Williams has led the Explorers (6-13, 2-2 A-10) to back-to-back A-10 Tournament appearances, including a trip to the second round in 2012.
Brittany Wilson, an A-10 preseason first team selection at guard, leads La Salle with a 17.6 per game scoring average, but is coming off a performance in a win at Temple in which she tallied eight points on 2-of-6 shooting. She is also averaging 6.5 rebounds a game so far this season.
Dawley said containing Wilson will have to be a collaborative effort.
“We’ll do that as a unit,” she said. “I think someone of that caliber, someone that can put up numbers like that, it’s not necessarily one-on-one defense that’s going to do it for you. It’s the unit.”
Apart from stopping Wilson, the Minutewomen will also have to concern themselves with production of La Salle’s other double-digit scoring guards: Shanel Harrison (10.8 PPG) and Ebonee Jones (10.1 PPG).
UMass is hoping its own leading scorer, Jasmine Watson – who comes into the matchup averaging just over 12 points a contest through 19 games – will settle into a rhythm early. Watson scored six points last time out against Dayton after picking up three first-half fouls, and has led the Minutewomen in scoring once since Dec. 28.
UMass holds a 14-7 advantage all-time against the La Salle, but has dropped both games against the Explorers during Dawley’s tenure with the Minutewomen.
Daniel Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.