Postseason not completely ruled out for Minutewomen

By David Martin

Maria Uminski/Collegian
Maria Uminski/Collegian
It’s no surprise that, as a season creeps closer and closer to an end, the thought on everyone’s mind is whether a team will be eligible for postseason play.

For the Massachusetts women’s basketball team, the time they have to make that thoguht a reality is running short.

After what was a promising trend of victories in the last weeks of December through the first half of January, things were looking good for the Minutewomen. The team was working all angles of the court, points were aplenty and production came from both the upperclassmen and the freshmen coming off the bench.

As of late however, things have taken a turn in the wrong direction.

Since their last win against Saint Louis at the Mullins Center Jan. 19,, the Maroon and White have lost their last five games and have dropped to 6-18 overall and 2-7 in the Atlantic 10, a mark which has them sitting at 12th in the conference.

But as the team looks towards the road ahead to catch eighth-seeded Saint Joseph’s, UMass assistant coach Steve Lanpher knows there is still plenty of time to turn their playoff hopes into reality.

“If you look at the A-10 standings, there are the top six, and then everybody else,” Lanpher said. “So we’ve got a chance, if we can win three or four games, to be able to get into that eighth or ninth spot. That’s where we want to be.”

Though conventional wisdom would dictate the climb up is going to be steep, it will not be as rough as it seems from afar.

Looking at the four teams currently sitting higher than UMass in the hunt for the eighth spot, their conference records are, by all means, surmountable.

George Washington and Fordham both have 2-6 A-10 records, while LaSalle and Saint Joseph’s both hold a 3-5 conference mark. If the Minutewomen are able to string together a good stretch of wins in the final weeks of the season, they will indeed be planning their trip to the A-10 tournament.

After all, they certainly have the tools at their disposal to make it happen.

Throughout both their wins and their tightly contested losses, the Maroon and White have shown formidable strengths in transition play, as well as from beyond the paint. In many of those games, their defense has proven strong enough to keep opposing scorers at bay, although they have allowed several virtually uncontested runs in the second half against more experienced opponents.

“For us to be successful, we’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders,” Lanpher said. “We’ve got to have Jasmine and Shakia scoring inside to be successful, and we’ve got to have Meg and Cerie scoring on the outside.”

Though their strengths can lead the team against opponents, it will be how they address their weaknesses that could change the tide of their season in their favor.

“Defensively, we’ve got to compete and follow through on assignments,” said Lanpher. “And obviously, we cannot turn the ball over. For us to be successful, we can’t turn it over more than 12-14 times.”

Whatever their plan of attack may be, the Minutewomen have to prepare for what will be their toughest stretch of the year.

Time will certainly be putting them to the test.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected].