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UMass women’s basketball seeks redemption

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

No team is more excited to start fresh this winter than the Massachusetts women’s basketball team.

The Minutewomen ended the 2012-13 season with 13 straight losses and an overall record of 3-26, which was UMass’ worst record since the 1990-91 season.

“Last year is over with and we can’t do anything about it,” said sophomore forward Rashida Timbilla. “We are a new team this year and that’s how we are going to approach every situation. We want to bring a new attitude to this team.”

This year’s squad, which includes 12 underclassmen, has already brought a new identity to the women’s basketball team in just a few short weeks of practice.

“The attitude is all about UMass getting better,” said UMass coach Sharon Dawley. “No one’s looking back; no one’s looking at last year. We’ve got 13 kids that are only looking at the program—no one is looking at their stat line.”

Despite having such a young team, the Minutewomen return four starters from last year including Timbilla, who averaged a team-high 8.3 rebounds to go along with 8.6 points per game. Also returning to the starting lineup this year are guards Nola Henry, Emily Mital and Jasmine Harris.

Joining Timbilla in the frontcourt is junior Kim Pierre-Louis, who came off the bench in all of her appearances last year. Pierre-Louis was one of the few Minutewomen that ended the season on a hot streak, averaging 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds over her last six games of the season.

“It’s so nice to go into a game with as much depth as we do,” Dawley said. “We have three centers that are all going to rotate in and out. Nola will be starting at point guard on Friday, and we have Amber (Dillon) coming off the bench. … It gives you a lot of confidence having depth at both the top and the bottom, especially with a Friday/Sunday home opener.”

With this young team, Dawley wants to take full advantage of the team’s ability to move up and down the floor.

“We want to run a motion that is really balanced,” she said. “We want to be a team that looks to attack, that can run a good break, that knows when to pull out and run some smooth sets to get clean shots off.”

While Timbilla looks like the preseason favorite to be the go-to player on offense, she was quick to point out how the depth of this team can hurt other teams in many different ways.

“We’ve got so many weapons on this year’s team,” she said. “When teams focus in on me, I can dish it to Kim inside or kick out to Emily and Jasmine for three to go along with a handful of girls that can come off the bench and get to the rim.”

Although this team might not scare many of their opponents on paper, Dawley does have high expectations for her young team.

“We want to be that team that people are worried about,” she said. “I want people to be talking about our depth, our leadership and our speed.”

The Minutewomen open up their regular season on Friday against Western Michigan at the Mullins Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcur@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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