Minutewomen host A-10 foe Rhode Island

P.J. Stanley/Collegian

While some teams in women’s college basketball need a dominant player to carry them, others thrive on pure team basketball.

Today, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team faces a team that hasn’t found winning ways with either philosophy.

Rhode Island (9-12, 2-4 Atlantic 10) has two players that average double figures in scoring, but when compared to the rest of the A-10 Conference, it is completely outmatched. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ The Rams are led by guards Sierra Cooper (11.3 points per-game) and Megan Shoniker (10.6), but neither is in the top 20 spots in the A-10 for scoring. The Rams have seven players who are at least six feet tall. They also have five that are major contributors, two of whom are starters.

The Minutewomen (8-13, 1-5 A-10) have starting forwards Kristina Danella (6-foot) and Teya Wright (6-foot-1) to combat this. Danella has flourished since being inserted into the UMass starting five and has played her best against conference opponents, scoring 13.2 points per game.

Her physical play is an invaluable complement to Wright in the post. This matchup will favor Wright because she has three inches on the 5-foot-10 Cooper and has the advantage in blocks and steals as well.

Cooper has also notched a team-high 60 fouls this season.

However, the game won’t be played mainly on the boards. Even though URI has the height, they don’t have the technique or the dominance. While blocking 34 shots this season, the Rams have been blocked 47 times.

UMass needs to box out effectively, regardless of the size of its opponents. Fundamentals need to be executed well and this includes both rebounding and ball control.

URI handles the ball well, turning the ball over 1.6 fewer times per game than its opponents. But, the Minutewomen can’t depend on the Rams to make many mistakes.

Shoniker is a threat from 3-point range, hitting 33 shots from beyond the arc this season. This will be an interesting area of the game when the two teams meet.

UMass has the players to make these shots and that’s why they have more than twice as many 3-point attempts as the Rams.

As well as being an inside player, Danella shoots 40 percent from 3-point range, senior captain Stefanie Gerardot shoots 33 percent and sophomore Cerie Mosgrove is shooting 36 percent from 3-point land off the bench.

Rhode Island is one of the worst teams in the A-10 at the defending the 3-point shot. The Rams are letting teams sink 35 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

At 6-feet tall, Mosgrove is also a body to put on bigger players.

For the Minutewomen, the major issue against URI won’t be on the boards but in the open court. UMass has 410 turnovers to Rhode Island‘s 170 steals. Opponents have stolen the ball from the Minutewomen 184 times this season.

The transition game will need to be a focal point for UMass as well. Most of the Minutewomen’s turnovers occured when the Minutewomen were trying to set the offense and it’s because of poor passing and a lack of composure on offense.

Shoniker will run the offense for the Rams. She’s a fiery player whose intensity sometimes gets the best of her. Like Cooper, She is a physical player and frequently gets into foul trouble. Her 50 fouls are second on the team and she has fouled out of five games this season.

Lindsay Harris is another player that gives the Rams a spark. At 5-foot-10, she leads Rhode Island in steals (42) as well as blocks (17). UMass coach Marnie Dacko will probably put Diatiema Hill on Harris because they are similar players ‘- as they are the defensive stoppers for their respective teams.

Mike Gillmeister can be reached at [email protected].