UMass women’s basketball looks to close out three-game homestand with win against struggling Davidson

By Adam Aucoin

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

As the regular season winds down and the Atlantic 10 tournament nears, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team looks to regain some of the momentum it achieved early in the season when it was sitting at .500 with a record of 8-8.

Despite this respectable start to the season, conference play has brought back the same nightmares the Minutewomen experienced in their previous two subpar seasons.

UMass, however, has a winnable opportunity in Wednesday against Davidson, which is the only team looking up at the Minutewomen at the bottom of the A-10 standings.

Wednesday will be the first ever meeting between the two schools as Davidson is in its first year in the A-10 after spending almost all of its program’s history in the Southern Conference.

The Wildcats (5-20, 1-11 A-10)  have struggled with its transition into its new conference and have experienced similar growing pains that the Minutewomen have endured in past years with freshmen who are trying to work out the kinks and grow for the future.

Despite its poor record, UMass’ (9-15, 3-9 A-10) mindset has remained the same: stay focused and humble.

“Davidson is very big and they play a pack mentality man to man,” Minutewomen coach Sharon Dawley said. “We need to work on some of our sets so we can perfect them against their pack.”

Davidson runs a triangle offense, which Dawley made sure she had her players review and defend during this week’s practices. Leading the Wildcats’ attack is junior forward Hannah Early, who averages 14.2 points per game. Other key contributors on the team include freshman forward Mackenzie Latt (11.3 points per game) and junior forward Dakota Dukes (9.5).

Dawley said she doesn’t have a specific player in mind that she wants her team to focus on; she prepares to key in on all of them and the team as whole.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on the five starters and zeroing in on their tendencies,” Dawley said. “In particular we have paid attention (Early) and (Latt) as well as the starting point guard who is pretty crafty, but I think that all of their players demand our respect.”

Making strides

The Minutewomen have certainly struggle over the past month – UMass has lost seven of its last eight games – but that hasn’t taken away from the improvement the team has made over last year and the growth they continue to see.

Dawley attributed many different factors to the team’s turnaround. One major point she emphasized was the addition of quality freshmen who have made an impact, including guards Leah McDerment and Cierra Dillard.

“Leah’s game has gotten better and better by the week. She’s a really good basketball player right now and her confidence has grown a lot,” Dawley said. “Cierra has also come on strong for us the last couple games.”

Dawley also pointed to the maturity and confidence of her players this year and their better conditioning as reasons for the team’s record improving.

Tip-off against the Wildcats is set for 7 p.m. at Mullins Center.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected].