Minutewomen continue to make postseason push

By Neil Carroll

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With four games left in the 2010 season, the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball standings are really shaping up.

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team is in prime position – as of right now – to make the A-10 tournament. The Minutewomen are alone in ninth with a record of 3-7 in the conference, but have a must-win game tonight at La Salle.

“I think it’s really trying to focus on getting into the A-10 tournament,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said about the postseason push. “La Salle just had a win over Fordham, and they’ve got four or five seniors on their team and they don’t want to end their season prematurely, so it’s just about us getting out there and taking care of business.”

La Salle finished tied for 13th in the A-10 last year with a record of 10-19, and 1-13 in the conference. This year, the Explorers (6-19, 1-9 A-10) are on pace for the same type of finish while UMass could separate itself from the bottom of the conference with a win.

Up until last Saturday, the Explorers were winless in conference play, with their last victory coming against Penn on Jan. 2. However, its last contest, La Salle toppled Fordham, 70-62, at home.

This year, the Explorers have not won two games in a row at any point.

Senior forward Morgan Robinson leads La Salle with 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. In La Salle’s lone conference win, Robinson finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Another senior, Jamie Walsh, outperformed Robinson in the Explorer’s last game. Against Fordham, Walsh had 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc – way above her average of 9.8 points per game. Walsh is a good 3-point shooter, converting 53-of-138 this year, good for 38 percent.

“They have several people that can shoot the ball,” Dacko said about the Explorers. “We’ve got to just come out and defend, play hard on the ball and really dominate on the boards.”

On paper, UMass will clearly have the rebounding advantage. As a team, La Salle is bringing down 29.2 rebounds per game, compared to UMass’ average of 36.3 per game. However, that category is a statistic that Dacko was unhappy with in the last game against Dayton.

The Minutewomen were outrebounded 40-30 by the Flyers and lost their 10th game at the Mullins Center last Saturday, 74-60. UMass rallied to cut the Dayton lead to four points at halftime, but the visitors pulled away with a second-half run.

In the loss, Diatiema Hill led the team in scoring with 15 points, while adding four rebounds and five assists.

Last year, UMass and La Salle met at the Mullins Center with the Minutewomen winning by one of their largest margins of victory on the season, easing their way to a 16-point win, 82-66.

In the contest, Kristina Danella scored a career-high 25 points. The sophomore was 7-of-10 shooting from the field, and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, while converting 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. 

This is the second week in a row that the Minutewomen will make a trip to Philadelphia. The last time down to the “City of Brotherly Love” UMass fell, 66-54, to Temple.

Neil Carroll can be reached at [email protected]