Schedule gets light for Minutewomen

By David Martin

Michael Wood/Collegian
Michael Wood/Collegian
As a team makes its way down the final lengths of the regular season, one of its biggest challenges to making the postseason cannot be found on the floor at the start of the game.

Rather, it lies in the film room, the locker room and on the practice court.

As the Massachusetts women’s basketball team heads towards its final five games of the regular season, the preparation it undertakes will be critical in deciding whether or not it can win the games needed to advance their placement in the Atlantic 10 standings.

As it stands, the Minutewomen (6-18, 2-6 A-10) currently hold the 12th seed, the last of the possible playoff-worthy teams. In comparison to the teams hovering around their placement, George Washington and Fordham both have identical 2-6 A-10 records, while Saint Louis is close behind at 1-7. Rhode Island, which is winless in the A-10, currently occupies the last conference spot.

Looking ahead to the next three games, the Maroon and White will have to anticipate and counter every strength in their opponents’ arsenal, starting with Dayton.

The Flyers (15-8, 6-3 A-10), who are already one of the stronger teams in the conference, have not lost to UMass in their last three contests. A critical component to their success lies in their scoring prowess.

Dayton is the highest scoring team in inter-conference play with 663 points. Its opponents combined have 574 points in comparison. Justine Raterman, the forefront of the offensive game plan and the most recent recipient of the A-10 Player of the Week award, has 386 points and has started every game this season.

By comparison, Cerie Mosgrove, the Minutewoman’s highest scorer, leads the team with 330 points.

As they prepare to face an explosive Flyers offense, assistant head coach Steve Lanpher knows that containment is going to be key.

“Dayton scores a lot of their points in transition,” Lanpher said. “We’re really focused on getting back defensively and then just getting a little better in our defensive rotations and our half-court defense. They’re all very skilled players and they’re all more than capable of scoring several points a game.”

Though the Flyers will be the best team that UMass will face within the next two weeks, they certainly will not be the only team confident in their playing abilities.

GW, which the Minutewomen will be visiting this Saturday, is starting its week hot out of the gate. The Colonials (7-15, 2-6 A-10) are coming off back-to-back wins against URI and Saint Louis, their first wins in conference play. In their wins, the Colonials dominated the game with strong defensive play, limiting their opponents to 35 and 36 points, respectively.

In addition, one of the Maroon and White’s six wins of the season has come on the road, and even though GW is one of the lower scoring teams in the conference, they certainly have momentum on their side heading into their next few meets.

After Saturday’s game, UMass will have a week off before they face Rhode Island at the Mullins Center on Feb. 19.

The Rams (6-16, 0-8 A-10) are bogged in a month-long, eight-game losing streak that started back on Jan. 8. With that, however, comes the desperate, nothing-to-lose attack plan that can lead a team to pull out a surprise win in the final minutes of the game.

As the Minutewomen look to gain ground in the coming weeks with a lighter schedule, it remains clear that in order to control their destinies at season’s end, they must prepare for the very worst that the season can possibly throw back.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected].