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Minutewomen ride momentum of two-game winning streak into matchup with Holy Cross

Maria Uminski/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team is heading into Tuesday’s game against Holy Cross with a feeling it hasn’t had in a long time: the momentum of a winning streak.

After defeating Rutgers on Wednesday and following it up with a win over Hartford on Saturday, the Minutewomen achieved their first two-game winning streak since Feb. 22, 2012.

“It really builds our confidence,” junior guard Emily Mital said. “Starting off 0-3, we obviously were kind of in a little slump there, and so this two-game winning streak kind of picked us up and now we’re feeling pretty confident.”

Holy Cross (3-0) comes into the contest with a strong offense that currently averages 83.7 points per game, with all five starters averaging at least 10 points a game.

“They do a tremendous job getting down the floor, and they pretty much have five shooters on the floor at one time,” UMass coach Sharon Dawley said.

The Minutewomen (2-3) have stepped up on the defensive side over the past two games, allowing an average of 61 points over their two wins after allowing an average of 84.3 points through their first three losses.

“I think our confidence on the defensive end keeps growing. I think that’s critical,” Dawley said. “Against Rutgers, we had the confidence to just hold onto a lead, and against Hartford, we couldn’t buy a basket, and just had confidence, like ‘stay in it, and once we’re able to put something together on the offensive end, we’ll be ok,’ and who knows what kind of game (Tuesday night) will bring.”

One aspect UMass particularly hopes to improve is transition defense. The team has been outscored on points off turnovers in each of its first five games by a margin of 96-59 and has been outscored on fast break points in three of the five games and 23-18 overall.

“That’ll be paramount, that we get out and match up on transition D,” Dawley said. “At that point we might not be on who we need to be on, but we’ll live with that as long as we don’t give them any transition buckets.”

The offense has also made slight improvements for the Minutewomen, scoring 63.5 points over their last two games after averaging 59.3 through their first three. But Dawley continues to emphasize defense as the team’s main key to victory.

“I think defense is something that you can hang your hat on. I think offense is the thing that comes and goes,” Dawley said. “But as a defensive unit, if we talk and we stay together…and I think if we play the defense that we played against Rutgers and Hartford, it’ll be a good game, we’ll be in it.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Worcester.

Jesse Mayfield-Sheehan can be reached at jmayfiel@umass.edu and can be followed on Twitter @jgms88.

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