Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball looks to end eight game losing streak Wednesday against Duquesne

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(Maggie Mulligan battles against two URI players for a rebound. Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/ Daily Collegian)

To say that the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s first eight games of conference play have been disappointing would be an understatement.

The 2015-16 season was supposed to be a season where UMass (6-14, 0-8 Atlantic 10) took a step forward from its 12-18 record from a year ago. With added depth at the guard position in Bria Stallworth and a quality transfer in forward Alyssa Lawrence, hopes were high internally for a successful campaign.

Early returns looked good, as the Minutewomen were 6-6 heading into A-10 play. But they don’t always tell the story though, and UMass is winless since conference play began.

The Minutewomen have faced a tough A-10 schedule up to this point and it won’t get any easier, as they’ll take on Duquesne (19-2, 7-1 A-10) Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

The Dukes have been one of the strongest teams in the conference throughout the season and sit third in the A-10.

Stallworth believes playing a top-tier team will give the Minutewomen extra motivation on Wednesday.

“It makes us play harder,” she said. “Playing a team as talented as Duquesne, you have to come in with a lot of energy from the beginning of the game and ride it throughout.”

Duquesne comes into the game averaging 73.5 points per game as a team, trailing only George Washington for most in the conference. The Dukes have a very balanced offensive attack, sporting five different players averaging double-digits in points.

Senior guard April Robinson leads the team with 14.7 ppg and is coming off a week where she was named A-10 Player of the Week.

UMass coach Sharon Dawley expressed the need to limit Robinson on Wednesday.

“We need to literally slow her down in the backcourt,” Dawley said. “They run a strong fast-break offense that she initiates, so we’ve been working hard on defending her and slowing her down in practice this week to be ready.”

Duquesne has also seen strong scoring from guard Deva’Nyar Workman, who averages 13.8 ppg largely in a bench role, while Amadea Szamosi has chipped in 12.6 ppg for the Dukes.

The Minutewomen will need to bring a stronger effort when they have the ball as well if they expect any chance of winning against their conference opponent. The team currently sits eighth in the conference in scoring and hasn’t seen consistent scoring outside of Stallworth and guard Cierra Dillard in recent games.

Stallworth, who was named A-10 Rookie of the Week for the fourth time this past week, understands the need for more people to get going on offense if they want to win.

“If you look back to previous games when we have had balanced attacks, we have been close or won all of those games,” Stallworth said. “If everyone can get back on track to scoring like they used to, we should be ok.”

Dawley echoed these thoughts.

“Shooting is by far the biggest thing that needs improvement on this team,” she said. “We shot 21-70 from the field in our last game. You aren’t going to win games playing like that. We need everyone to chip in, especially taking on such a strong team as Duquesne.”

Despite the team dropping eight straight and being heavy underdogs going into the game against the Dukes, UMass is confident they can turn around their play.

“Honestly, all it takes is one game,” Stallworth said. “If we can win one, it will go from there and be a domino effect. That’s all we need and I know we can get it done.”

“If I told you we were at our highest confidence level right now I would be lying,” Dawley added. “Credit to our team though, we have had a couple great practices this week, so we feel like we are going in the right direction.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @aaucoin34

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