BOSTON, Mass. – The UMass Boston women's basketball team is looking to keep their recent win-streak alive this evening as they travel to Keene State College for the first round of the Little East Conference tournament. Fresh off of their first sweep of Eastern Connecticut State University in over a decade on Saturday, the Beacons will look to pull-off the upset in the Owls home gymnasium tonight at 5:30 p.m.
Entering this year's tournament as the sixth seed, the Beacons will be competing in the postseason for the first time under third-year head coach Courtney Mattingly. In Saturday's win over Eastern Connecticut, the Beacons dismantled the Warriors to earn a 75-53 win.
During the regular season, the Owls defeated the Beacons in both their meetings first pulling out a 65-51 decision in December then a 75-33 decision in January. This afternoon's meeting will mark only the third time that the two teams have met in the first-round of the Little East tournament. Their last meeting occurred in 2003 when the Owls pulled out an 94-82 overtime win. They also shared the same hardwood in the 2002 tournament, in which Keene State managed a 65-52 victory over the Beacons.
Going into today's contest, coach Mattingly will be looking to 6'2" center Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) to not only clean up the glass, but to score those crucial points under the basket as well. Morrison enters this year's tournament averaging 17.0 points per game, which leads all freshman players. Her 10.0 rebounds per game also have her atop the conference rankings as well.
Along with her Lauren Perra (Taunton, Mass.) will also need to control the Beacons offense at the point guard position. The Taunton, Massachusetts native has shown tremendous growth this season, since taking over as the Beacons starter. Dangerous from 3-point range, coach Mattingly will look for Perra to capitalize on her open looks. This season, Perra ranks second on the team with 11.6 points per game.
Filling in as the Beacons go-to forwards will be seniors Molly Rattigan (Dorchester, Mass.) and Elizabeth Dow (Marshfield, Mass.). Rattigan is looking to build-off a great week last week in which she recorded 10 or more rebounds in two of the three games played. Dow is also another tough player who can crash to the basket when needed. Her no fear mentality will be crucial to helping the Beacons pick-up the rebounds on both sides of the court.
Having perhaps the single greatest performance of the year on Saturday was Teresa Pina (Boston, Mass.). After dropping in a career-best and team-high 32 points in the win over the Warriors, Pina's will need to be that consistent shooter if the Beacons are going to pull-out the upset at one of the toughest gyms to play at in the Little East Conference. Against Eastern Connecticut, Pina was 13-for-19 from the field, which included going 6-for-9 from 3-point range.
As a team the Beacons have to not only take advantage of the open-looks, but they also have to possess the basketball for all 40 minutes. Turnovers have plagued the Beacons for most of the season, but when they manage to keep possession and play strong defense positive things have happened. In Saturday's win UMass turned the ball over a season-low nine times, which prevented the Warriors from getting the easy points on the other side of the court.
The Beacons are also going to look to their bench for key minutes and points. Sophomore Shelby Buck (Greenfield, Ohio) and junior Elisa Ogawa (Yamanashi, Japan) will need to make an impact anytime they are called to the table. Buck, who has continued to work her way back this season after suffering a knee injury as a freshman is a very versatile player that can help the Beacons in the late minutes of the game. Ogawa is another hardnosed player that can give UMass Boston valuable minutes. She will need to play some aggressive defense and force turnovers whenever possible to take any momentum away from the Owls.
The winner of this afternoon's contest will face the regular-season champion Anchorwomen of Rhode Island College on Friday in Providence, R.I. at 5:30 p.m. In the other first-round game UMass Dartmouth will face Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut at 7 p.m. The winner of that contest will face Southern Maine on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Rhode Island College. Saturday's championship game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start at Rhode Island College. The winner of this year's conference tournament will receive an automatic-bid to the 2012 NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament.