UM welcomes 1st place St. Bonaventure

By David Martin

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

In its efforts to end its six-game losing streak and to improve its position in the Atlantic 10 standings, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team will take on No. 25 St. Bonaventure at home at the Mullins Center tonight at 5 p.m.

The Minutewomen (6-17, 1-7 A-10) have struggled since their last win against the Rams in Rhode Island on Jan. 11, due in large part to their lack of consistent offensive pressure and scoring ability.

Over its past six losses, UMass has scored over 60 points only twice, and has been outscored by its opponents by an average margin of 16 points per contest. The team’s closest game in this stretch was a heartbreaking 56-54 loss to Fordham on Jan. 28, in which the Minutewomen lost in the final three seconds of regulation.

UMass has, however, been developing both its defensive and offensive approaches throughout the streak, and has realized the potential for depth going forward in tough matches from some of its bench players. Freshmen such as center Millie Niggeling and forward Aisha Rodney have really started to prove themselves off the bench over the past few games, both in terms of scoring potential as well as in defensive ability and mindset.

Another positive for the Minutewomen has been the consistent performances of the veteran players on the team. Junior forward Shakia Robinson, for example, has been a powerful physical presence inside the paint for the majority of the season, leading the team in scoring in several contests this season. Junior center Jasmine Watson has also been strong offensively for UMass. Though she got off to a relatively slow start in the beginning of the season, Watson has shot higher than 60 percent in five of her last six games.

Though the Minutewomen have factors rising on the upswing, the squad will face the best team in the A-10 and one of the best teams in all of women’s basketball tonight.

The Bonnies (22-2, 9-0 A-10) are the strongest force in the conference and have showed no signs of slowing down anytime soon. St. Bonaventure has won its past 11 games, tying a program record. The Bonnies also have the nation’s best road record at 10-0 and have gone 12-1 against teams that went to either the NCAA Tournament or women’s National Invitational Tournament last season.

St. Bonaventure has one of the best 3-point shooters in the game in senior guard Jessica Jenkins. Jenkins is averaging 15.6 points per game and is cashing in on 42.2 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc. In addition, she’s hit eight 3-pointers in a game on three occasions in her last 11 contests, including twice in her last three games.

Also impressive for the Bonnies is senior forward Megan Van Tatenhove, who was selected to the Preseason First Team All-Atlantic 10. Van Tatenhove also became just the ninth member of St. Bonaventure 1000 point and 500 rebound club earlier this season.

The competition the Minutewomen will face tonight is undoubtedly their toughest test of the season. The Bonnies have not lost since Dec. 29 and have persevered against the majority of the elite teams within the conference. Not surprisingly, a win against St. Bonaventure could prove to be the spark that UMass has been missing to start a strong and hopeful drive into the postseason.

David Martin can be reached at [email protected]