Team playing harder, more intense

By Neil Carroll

After the first win in the Mullins Center since Nov. 22 against Villanova, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is ready to head back on the road against Temple, with a confidence-building 60-50 win over Fordham on Saturday.

The team was hurting from a loss against St. Bonaventure at home on Feb. 2, but now is looking up after the recent win. The victory over the Rams gives UMass two wins out of its last three games for the first time since it won two consecutive games in the Brown Bear Classic in early December.

Dacko has noticed the team is playing harder in the team’s wins. The effort was evident when Kim Benton hit the floor for a loose ball in the win against Fordham – despite the team being up by a double-digit lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

  “We’re trying to finish every play,” UMass coach Marnie Dacko said. “The big thing is trying to make some plays and finish plays. We’re trying to play a little scrappier than we do, and just pay more attention to detail.”

 The Owls typically use their speed to generate easy baskets and hold their opponents to a conference-low 53.1 points per game. The Temple defense held La Salle to 26.5 percent shooting from the field in its 55-34 victory on Saturday.

“They’re very athletic, they’re long, they’re very aggressive, they press,” Dacko said. “We’re looking at the possibility of playing zone because we don’t matchup with them particularly well.”

Freshman gets award

Thanks to an average of 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists in two games last week against Fordham and St. Bonaventure, Jasmine Watson earned her second A-10 Rookie of the Week award.

Watson had her first 20-point performance against Fordham with a variety of low-post moves in the victory on her way to 21 points and eight rebounds on the afternoon.

Although she fouled out against the Bonnies, Watson finished with 12 points and led the team in scoring. She hit double-digit points in eight out of the last 10 games this season, but certainly has a lot of room left to improve before season’s end.

“I think Jasmine’s gift is when a coach makes a correction, she will make the right adjustment,” Dacko said. “So she really listens to a coach and applies to whatever that coach says, and works on that.”

Watson recently added in a third move to her post play. Now she can go right or left while backing down an opponent and also can face up in addition to hitting the contested jumper.

However, Watson struggled earlier in the season with traveling calls, which contributed to her 71 turnovers this season, but her coach believes she has improved significantly over the course of the season.

“She generally improves positively,” said Dacko. “But when she gets going too fast, that is when she reverts back to the old Jasmine. I think the biggest thing for her is the ability to make adjustments when coaches tell her.”

Neil Carroll can be reached at [email protected]