UM needs A-10 title to reach NCAA’s

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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With the grind of the regular season now complete, it’s win or go home for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team in the Atlantic 10 Championship. An NIT appearance is unlikely, so without a conference tournament title, the Minutewomen’s season is over

The tournament commences on Friday in Cincinnati, Ohio, where UMass (17-12, 7-7 A-10) will square off against St. Bonaventure (15-14, 5-9 A-10) in the opening round. The winner moves on to face Temple in the second round on Saturday.

The Bonnies and the Minutewomen met earlier this month in Olean, N.Y., and the Maroon and White held on to a 53-49 victory. UMass overcame 22 turnovers to register the win, thanks in large part to the 29 percent shooting by the Bonnies.

The Minutewomen enter Friday’s contest having won five of their last six contests, while St. Bonaventure has lost five of its last seven.

A-10 tournament history

The A-10 tournament hasn’t been kind to the Minutewomen. Since joining the A-10 in 1983-84, UMass has failed to capture the title in each of its 23 tournament appearances. Under UMass coach Marnie Dacko, the Minutewomen are 1-4 in the tournament, with their lone win coming against Duquesne in 2004-05.

The Minutewomen have a 13-24 (.351) all-time record in the tournament, and have been bounced out in the first round 12 times. UMass has only reached the tournament final once, in 1997-98, when it fell to Virginia Tech, 64-66, in overtime. The Maroon and White notched its first tournament victory during the 1987-88 season, against Friday’s opponent, St. Bonaventure.

Accolades pile up for Mills

Last season, Kate Mills averaged 12.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, earning her a Second Team All-Conference selection. The junior co-captain has improved in virtually every statistical category this season, averaging 16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per contest. Despite the improved numbers, Mills was named to the All-Conference Third Team on Tuesday.

Forwards aren’t typically characterized as good shooters, but Mills may be the exception. The 6-foot-1 Mills easily leads the team in both field-goal percentage (53.9 percent) and free-throw percentage (82.1 percent).

Mills is among the leaders in a variety of categories within the conference, highlighted by her ranking in points (eighth), blocks (second), field-goal percentage (fourth) and free-throw percentage (fifth).

Mills has recorded double digits in scoring in all 29 games this season, including six 20-point efforts and five double-doubles. She continues to be a force in the middle, registering a single-season school record for blocks, with 66. The 128 blocks in her three seasons rank her fourth on the schools career list.

Nothing but a ‘G’ thing

Earlier in the season, senior Tamara Tatham reached the 1,000-point plateau – becoming just the 15th player in school history to accomplish the feat. Her 1,170 lifetime points rank her eighth on the UMass career-scoring list. She will finish her career in that spot, as she trails the seventh player on the list by over 200 points.

Tatham is likely to have some company real soon. Mills and junior Pam Rosanio rank 16th and 17th in career scoring at UMass, respectively, and both have a good chance to join Tatham on the 1,000-point scoring list during the conference tournament. Mills needs just 11 points, while Rosanio needs 21.

Both Mills and Rosanio still have one year remaining to don the maroon and white, and health-permitting, can climb high up the chart in career scoring. With the Minutewomen losing Tatham to graduation, Mills will likely have to shoulder even more of the scoring load next year, and a 500 (468 this year) point season is likely. If Mills is able to reach 1,500 career points, she will find herself in fourth place in UMass history.

Stats to keep an eye on

With games left in the season numbered, a few players have a chance to climb up the single-season record books. If Mills can score 22 points, she will climb from eighth to fourth for the most points scored in one season, and if she converts on just five field goals, she will be fourth for field goals made.

Freshman Kim Benton is currently tied for third with 50 3-pointers hit this season. Four more will place her second, while nine will give her the record. With two more steals, Tatham will move into the top five for single-season thefts. If Tatham plays 34 minutes she will also find herself in the top five in that category.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]