Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Slow starts plague UMass women’s basketball during break

By Nick O

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As the Massachusetts women’s basketball team ended its non-conference schedule and opened up Atlantic 10 play for 2009, it quickly became apparent that many of the issues that plagued the team in the past year were there to stay.

Of all the concerns facing UMass coach Marnie Dacko’s squad, the way the team has started off games slowly is becoming one of the most glaring.

With a 67-44 defeat by the hands of St. Bonaventure (13-4, 2-0 A-10) on Jan 17, the Minutewomen (8-10, 1-2 A-10) showed once again that, even if they have the ability to hang with a team in the second half, the damage sustained in the first half can be too much.

St. Bonaventure’s 12-0 game-opening run and 44-21 halftime lead was another case of the Minutewomen failing to match their opponents out of the gate. On many occasions, UMass has been simply blown out in the first half of games only to play evenly with the same opponent in the second half.

Even though the Minutewomen came into the second half with a 23-point deficit against the Bonnies, the second half was an evenly played affair, with both teams putting up 23 points.

On the season, UMass has been outscored in the first half by an average of 35-28.8. In the second half, though, the Minutewomen have averaged a 33.7-32 edge.

The slow starts have become commonplace for UMass since the break. In its last 11 games, the team has led at the half twice, going 4-7 in that time frame.

Living by the 3

With 11 games left in the season, freshman Kristina Danella’s 3-pointer in the first half against St. Bonaventure, the team’s 118th 3-point shot of the season, broke the school record for 3-pointers in a single season. To date, UMass is shooting 33.8 percent from behind the arc, accumulating 133 3-pointers.

This program milestone is indicative of the new style of offense that has emerged for the Minutewomen this season. With sharpshooters like Danella and sophomore Cerie Mosgrove, who has already shattered the individual school record for 3-pointers in a season with 43, and senior Stefanie Gerardot, the team’s leading scorer, Dacko has acknowledged that her team does rely on the three.

Outside of the team’s deep threats, the offense receives contributions from guards senior Sakera Young and redshirt sophomore Diatiema Hill, who have the ability to slash to the hoop, in addition to an interior presence in sophomore Teya Wright. However, three of the team’s top four scorers have taken at least 25 3-pointers so far this season.

The drastic shift in what the Minutewomen are doing on offense can be attributed to the newly adopted dribble-drive offense of the men’s team and graduation. The losses of last year’s squad, which included standouts Kate Mills and Pam Rosanio, has changed UMass into a shoot-first, dribble-second team. According to Dacko, the Minutewomen are trying to avoid putting the ball on the floor and are looking for success by shooting the ball along the perimeter.

Breaking out

Starting with a 24-point effort against Northeastern on Dec. 20, which almost doubled her career total, Danella has quickly emerged as one of the biggest scoring threats on the Minutewomen. Since hitting her stride in the team’s offense and working her way into the starting lineup, Danella has become the No. 2 scoring threat on the team behind Gerardot.

‘I’ve asked Danella to shoot the ball 20 times a game,’ Dacko said. ‘And when she does that, when she takes 17 shots, we’re usually winning ball games.’

Despite waiting until the midpoint of the season to breakout, Danella is already the second highest scorer for UMass this season behind Gerardot. She also currently leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage with 42.6 percent.

Nick O’Malley can be reached at [email protected]

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