Finding itself bogged down in yet another extended losing streak, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is hoping a change of scenery can help reverse its fortunes.
The Minutewomen will get just that when they embark on a three-game, out of state road trip beginning at Saint Louis on Thursday.
UMass (3-19, 1-6 Atlantic 10 Conference) enters the game against the Billikens having lost 14 of its last 15 games, including six in a row, all against conference opponents.
Up-and-down shooting and sloppy play has hurt the Minutewomen all season long, and cost the team at crunch-time in a number of winnable games. Still, UMass coach Sharon Dawley isn’t ready to alter her outlook as the team sets out for Missouri.
“Not at all, no change,” she said. “We’re just so used to being on the road (that there’s) no change whatsoever. It’s just ‘Where are we practicing today?’”
The Minutewomen, who fell to Saint Louis, 63-59, on the road last season, are led in scoring by Jasmine Watson (11.9 points per game) and Emily Mital (8.9 ), but struggled to make baskets in their most recent loss to Temple on Sunday. Watson and Mital combined to score just 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting against the Owls.
Dawley is hoping going on the road will also help some key players find their scoring touch again.
“Especially if we’re not shooting well at home, what do we care if we’re on the road?” she asked. “We might shoot better.”
The Billikens (9-12, 4-5 A-10) are paced offensively by a quintet of players with per-game scoring averages in or nearing double-digits: Lorreal Jones (11.8), Desirae Ball (9.0), Jacy Bradley (9.0), Courtney Webb (9.0) and Mallory Eggert (8.8). The Billikens, led by first-year coach Lisa Stone, rank 13th in the A-10 in scoring margin (-4.5), three spots ahead of last-place UMass (-11.0).
One factor contributing the Minutewomen’s offensive struggles against Temple was an unusually high number of blocked UMass shots — especially early in the game — that Dawley believed altered her players’ mindset and led them to settle for awkward jump shots. That shouldn’t be a problem for the team again on Thursday, as Saint Louis’ 1.2 blocks per game rank dead last in the A-10.
Though her team has scuffled throughout much of the season, Dawley is proud of the way the Minutewomen have handled themselves and the season so far, saying “I think that’s why I give so much credit to the kids, because it’s hard to be where we are (in the standings) and show up as positive as they do every day.”
Pulling out a win or two between now and when UMass returns to Amherst on Feb. 20 would go a long way in aiding the cause to stay upbeat.
The game is scheduled to tip off in Chaifetz Arena at 9 p.m. and will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
Daniel Malone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Daniel_Malone.