Minutewomen have time to get back on top

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

With classes set to begin, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team (10-8, 0-3 Atlantic 10) will have to buckle down not just in the classroom, but on the court as well if it wants any chance at making noise in the conference.

Time is on their side with 11 league games remaining, including seven home tilts for the Minutewomen. UMass enters the stretch drive of the conference schedule with four straight games at the Mullins Center, and seven of its next nine.

Prerequisites for winning

If the Minutewomen wish to go dancing in March they will need to make some adjustments and improve in a number of areas. And with this team, it all starts with taking care of the basketball.

In eight games over the recess, UMass committed an astronomical 150 turnovers. The Minutewomen turned the ball over more than their opponents in six of those games, and not surprisingly lost five of them. UMass has turned the ball over almost 18 times per game, while its opponents average just 15.

During the four-game losing skid, the big difference had undoubtedly been points off turnovers. Had that statistic been equal for both teams in each game, UMass might have finished that stretch with a 3-1 record, as opposed to its 0-4 mark during that time.

“It’s been a spiraling effect of turnovers for much of the season,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “We’re continuing to turn the ball over, and it hurts.”

All season long, Dacko has been preaching to her team that they need to get the ball inside, initiate contact and get to the foul line. It was something the team was doing in excess early on this season, but has strayed from lately. The negative effect of UMass’ careless mistakes is obvious.

“I’m concerned with the lack of free-throw attempts we’ve had recently,” Dacko said. “That goes back to being on the attack. We’re just not doing that right now and we’re not getting to the foul line because of it. That’s very important to our game and for us to get in the win column.”

Dacko also feels that the bench play for her team will be crucial – in more ways than one – for her team moving forward.

“We’re looking for the bench to step up and help us in spots,” she said. “Not just to give us rest, but to be productive when they come on the court. If we can get them going then they can spell the starters some minutes.”

Leading by example

With the recent struggles of the Minutewomen, it becomes even more imperative for the leaders of the squad to pull the team together. The two new captains this year – juniors Kate Mills and Alisha Tatham – are among those responsible of doing just that.

“I think they’ve done pretty well in their roles,” Dacko said. “I think they’re doing a great job off the court with their responsibilities. But I think their job now has to step up and we need a spokeswoman on the floor to get our kids together and rally the troops.

“They need to make sure we’re in right offense and defense all the time,” she added. “The shot clock expired four times against George Washington and that simply should not happen with five people on the floor. Our leaders need to step up and let their teammates be aware of the clock. They don’t necessarily have to be coaching people, but they need to give us confidence on the floor so we can execute well.”


Although she continues to turn the ball over at an alarmingly high rate, Tamara Tatham has been a force on the blocks – terrorizing her opponents in all facets of the game. A tremendous athlete, Tatham plays solid defense while grabbing rebounds, picking off passes and shooting a high percentage.

“She’s playing very well,” Dacko said. “She can play better and with more intensity but I’m very happy with her play. I’m not going to say that I’m completely satisfied with her play because she has the ability to get a double-double every game.

“If she limits her turnovers and turns them into points, we’re a better team,” Dacko added. “I just think she has the capability and potential to be giving us even more. She has to give us that mental edge.”

In the eight games over break, Tatham recorded two double-doubles, but has just fallen short three additional times by a single rebound, and once by only two. In that span she has averaged 16 points per contest, on 50-for-80 shooting – good for 62.5 percent shooting from the field.

In addition to her offensive prowess, Tatham averaged 8.5 rebounds and three steals per game in her last eight contests. She didn’t record fewer than two steals in any of the games over break. For the season, Tatham is rather close to averaging a double-double – with averages of 12.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Stat central

Despite struggling of late, junior guard Pam Rosanio has maintained her double-figure scoring average, joining Mills and Tatham on that list. Mills continues to lead the team in scoring at 15.5 points per night. Mills and Tatham have been stellar from the field, with each shooting above 50 percent.

Freshman point guard Kim Benton may – thanks to the accuracy of her outside shot – join those three in double figures by the season’s end. Benton has drained a team-high 34 three-pointers, almost triple the amount of Rosanio – who has knocked down 12 thus far.

Although Dacko remains concerned about the team’s passing, UMass has recorded almost three more assists per game than its opponents. No player on the team averages more than 3.2 per night, but it’s Tatham who actually leads the team in that category – something rare for a forward. Tatham also paces the team in steals by a wide margin (40 to Rosanio’s 24), which is good for more than two per game.

In the low post, Mills has recorded 33 blocks, and has an almost laughable lead over the rest of her teammates. Mills has notched 33 of the 44 blocks registered by the entire team. Nobody else has even swatted away four shots.

No place like home

A key reason why the Minutewomen struggled so much over break was the fact that they played six consecutive games away from home over a two-week stretch. Now that the brutal stretch is behind them, the team can return to its place of solitude. The Mullins Center has been nothing but kind to the Minutewomen. They recently had a stretch of 10 straight home wins finally snapped.

UMass has won four of its five games in Amherst, and its lone loss came by just one point to Delaware. The team is looking forward to returning home after over an entire month since its last home game on Dec.17.

“I look forward to just being at home,” Dacko said. “Having that level of comfort we have at home will be nice to have again. We need to be able to execute, as you’re only as good as your next game. We need to put our offense and defense together against Temple and it will certainly help us to be playing that game here at the Mullins Center.”

Teamwork will make a difference

Dacko feels the team will head in the right direction and start winning games as long as they play together on the floor.

“They were trying to do too much alone as individuals,” she said about some of the recent games. “If we just get back to team play, we’ll be fine. We’re a much better team when we’re getting assists on our field goals. As of late we haven’t done that.

“Instead of us trying to create for our teammate’s, the team is just going out there and trying to do everything themselves,” she added. “We can’t win that way. I think some things just aren’t going our way right now. We got to the point where we got so tight we were playing not to lose, instead of to win.”

Knock on wood

The starting lineup has remained in tact over the last nine games, due in large part to the good health of the entire team. Now is certainly not the right time in the season for the injury bug to infect the team.

“Knock on wood for me,” Dacko said. “Pam got hit in the head the other day and we had to sit her out of practice. We have to guard against a mild concussion. But o
ther than that, everyone else is OK and that has been the case for much of the season.

Dacko is happy with her starting lineup of Benton and Rosanio at guard, Mills and Alisha Tatham at forward, and Tamara Tatham at center. She expects to keep it that way in the future, but won’t be hesitant to shake things up if need be.

“I like Diatiema Hill and Sakera Young coming off the bench right now,” she said. “I’ve been getting a look at Stefanie Gerardot and Whitney McDonald more than I had been as well. I just might mix it up a little quicker from now on.”