Minutewomen travel to Northeastern

By Mike Mastone

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After giving up 82 points in a blowout loss to St. John’s in the second game of the season, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team made significant improvements on the defensive end and looks to carry that same intensity into Northeastern this afternoon.

The Minutewomen (3-3) are coming off arguably their best defensive performance of the season. In a six-point loss to Miami on Saturday, UMass held a high octane Hurricane (8-0) offense (83 points per game) to 63 on 31.3 percent shooting from the field. That is the most the Minutewomen have allowed in their past four games.

“I am very pleased with what we did in Miami,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “We played a strong Miami team that was averaging 50 rebounds and 85 points per game, so holding them to [63 points] was great.”

UMass finished second in the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament after defeating Rice (0-6) to make it to the finals. The team won two of its past three games, which Dacko says is because of her team’s improvements in rebounding and on defense.

“I think rebounding will continue to be a work in progress,” Dacko said. “[Our improvements] are having an effect on our ability to move the ball from side to side, which is leading to great team play and getting to the foul line. We are being more physical and aggressive, so we are boxing out and playing better one-on-one defense.”    

Sophomore Kristina Danella has been the team’s biggest offensive weapon thus far, and enters the game with 27 consecutive free-throws. The guard is averaging 15.5 ppg and has led UMass in scoring in five of the team’s six games. Her strongest efforts came against Boston University and Rice, where she scored 21 points in each game.

Nicole Jones also stepped up after a breakout game against Villanova. She shot 4-of-8 from the field for nine points against Rice, and also hauled in five rebounds and blocked four shots. Her strong play continued against Miami, where she had 13 points, six boards and two blocks.

Dacko feels that the strong play of Danella, Jones and senior Diatiema Hill contributed directly to the team’s improvements. She also hopes to get more young players incorporated into the offense.

“Hill did a great job defensively and Jones and Danella made the All-Tournament team as sophomores,” Dacko said. “That shows that the young players are stepping up. The goal is getting more and more minutes for the younger players in hopes of developing five people that can score in double figures.”

Northeastern enters the matchup looking for its fourth win in five games. The Huskies (3-2) rolled past Army, 77-45, on Saturday to earn their third victory of the season.

The sophomore trio of Brittany Wilson, Jamie Conroy and Kashaia Cannon lead the Northeastern attack. Wilson could be considered the team’s top threat on both ends, leading the Huskies with 12.2 ppg and 2.2 steals per game. However, she is also the team leader in turnovers (17) through five games.

Conroy trails Wilson with 11 ppg. The 5-foot-7 inch guard is very consistent on the offensive end, shooting a team high 66.7 percent from the field. She is also the team leader in rebounds per game (5.2), minutes per game (29.2) and assists per game (3.6).

Northeastern’s third leading scorer, Cannon has poured in 54 points thus far, leaving her seven behind Wilson for the team lead. She is also second on the team in assists (2.4) and averages three rebounds per contest.

Today’s matchup will be the 29th meeting between UMass and Northeastern, with the Minutewomen leading the all-time series, 16-12.

Mike Mastone can be reached at [email protected]