Defense key for UMass women’s basketball moving forward

By Joey Saade

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team didn’t get off to the start it hoped for in last weekend’s season-opening slate of games.

And a lack of defense was primarily the reason why.

The Minutewomen dropped both of their home games against Western Michigan and Central Michigan, including a 105-61 loss against the Chippewas on Sunday, which was the most points the team has given up in school history.

Asked what the biggest takeaway was from her team’s opening losses, UMass coach Sharon Dawley stuck to one main facet of their game: defense.

“Today we played three hours of defense,” she said. “I came in today, looking just where we need to be in terms of growing the defense. Whether it’s our strong side defense, we didn’t box out well enough, and we gave up too many open threes.

“I saw some bright spots Friday night. Sunday, I saw mostly deer in headlights, and our problems tend to get magnified once we get frustrated.”

One of the few bright spots coming out of the weekend was the play of sophomore Nola Henry. The point guard led her team offensively in both games, scoring 13 points on Friday and 16 on Sunday.

Despite her encouraging performances on offense, Henry acknowledged that the defensive side of the ball is where her team’s focus should be.

“Defense for sure,” she said of the team’s biggest struggle coming out of last weekend. “We didn’t have pride in our defense. Our offense will come, as long as we play defense.”

The Minutewomen (0-2) look to build on their adjustments in practice by switching their focus to a Sunday road matchup against American University.

The Eagles are coming off a 76-69 season-opening victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Led by first-year coach Megan Gebbia, American had four players reach double figures, including a 21-point performance from senior guard Alexis Dobbs.

Sunday’s game will mark the first meeting between the two teams. While trying to game plan against an Eagles team she’s never faced before, Dawley is still focused on what her team has to fix moving forward.

“We just work on us, and what we need to be better at,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who we play at this point, our defense needs to get better, and our offense needs to get more organized.

“We’ve got to get our defense working and I believe the rest will fall into place,” she added.

Tip off for Sunday’s game is at 1 p.m.

Joey Saade can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jsaade1225.