Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutewomen look to further their improvement from past two seasons in 2015

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(Daily Collegian File Photo)

(Daily Collegian File Photo)

When the Massachusetts women’s basketball team opened up its season last year, there was little excitement surrounding the team because of the troublesome 7-53 record it accumulated over the previous two campaigns.

The Minutewomen managed to excel preseason expectations, however, as the young lineup made tremendous strides by tripling their win total from the year before with a seemingly uncharacteristic 12-18 record. UMass continued onto that fairytale-like run in extended play as well, as the program advanced past the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament for the first time since 2004.

With all of that said, the 2015-16 campaign looks like one that could build upon that improvement even further. As far as the UMass players and coaches are concerned, last season’s success was no fluke, and they believe this team is primed to do great things this time around. That’s at least what the seniors expect, emphasizing a new mentality as a major key behind their future success.

“I see us going back to the tournament and doing better than we did last year,” senior guard Amber Dillon said. “We don’t get down, we know how to push through (losses) and that’s something we didn’t have in the past years I’ve been here.”

“I think our attitude is different,” senior Rashida Timbilla added. “We believe we can get wins, and that’s the most important thing. We got to believe in ourselves and in our team.”

(Graphic by Grace Benhamroun)

(Graphic by Grace Benhamroun)

Outside of this newfound winning mindset, the Minutewomen are in a good position to win more games, largely due to their returning core and an increase in talented depth to the rotation. Looking at the current roster, UMass returns four of its five starters from last year, and five players overall that averaged at least 15 minutes per game in 2014. With the additions of potential starters Alyssa Lawrence (forward) and Bria Stallworth (point guard) to the mix, as well as two other returning players that logged decent minutes, coach Sharon Dawley expects the rotation to be deep and loaded with talent.

“We’ve got a (lineup) with a ton of experience,” she said. “Some kids are playing particularly well right now, which is great. We have a freshman starting at the point for us that’s very skilled. Whatever the lineup ends up being, we have more depth.”

Even with all of the depth the Minutewomen have entering the season, one potential concern that arises is how the offense will operate now that offensive juggernaut Kim Pierre-Louis has graduated. Despite the absence of a player that averaged 18.4 points per game last season, Dawley believes the offense is much better than it has been in the past.

“(This year) I think you’ll see a much improved offensive set,” she said. “There’s a lot more balance. Where we relied on Kim so much last year, now we have a lot of weapons, so we are harder to defend. It’s not like you can take Kim Pierre-Louis out of the game. … I think there’s so much balance, points will come in different places in each game.”

Now that there is  more depth, this allows different lineups to be put out on the court for a solid scoring combination. Dawley acknowledges both Lawrence and Stallworth to be good additions to help the lineup on the floor find an offensive rhythm, which tags along nicely with the scoring options that were already on the team.

With most of the roster returning from UMass’ surprising season last year, Dawley’s group looks more than capable to make another solid run to get to the A-10 tournament at the end of the year.

“We’re a really deep team, a really balanced team,” said Timbilla. “I’m excited. Obviously we’re ranked low, but we’re ready to shock some people.”

Tom Mulherin can be reached at [email protected]

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