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May 5, 2017

UMass women’s basketball heads to URI for season finale, looks to snap losing streak

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

With only one game left on the schedule, the struggling Massachusetts women’s basketball team is desperate for a win.

Five weeks removed from their most recent triumph, the Minutewomen (9-19, 3-12 Atlantic 10) head to Rhode Island on Wednesday looking to snap a nine-game losing streak and snag a win heading into the A-10 tournament.

“When you lose, it’s hard, no question about it,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “It’s been a month and a half since we’ve won. We’ve got to keep working hard, keep preparing each and every single day, nothing’s changed with how we do things.”

The Rams (5-22, 1-14 A-10) gave the Minutewomen a run for their money when the two met back in January, as UMass squeaked out a 68-67 win at home.

“Well, we beat them [in Amherst] the first time we played them,” Verdi said. “We played really hard but they had a huge size advantage. They have one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the A-10, we need to do a great job on her. We have to go down there and play really hard, and be able to score, and we need to take care of the basketball.”

Junior guard Charise Wilson leads the way for URI, averaging 19.3 points per game in 20 games this season. Wilson’s scoring average would be good for second-best in the A-10, however she has not played in enough games this season to qualify for the A-10 leaderboard.

“I think we matchup really well [with URI],” junior guard Leah McDerment said. “They’re a team we play a lot – we play them twice every year – and they’re a big rival of ours. They have a couple of lights-out shooters that we’re going to have to keep an eye on, and we know what we need to do because we’ve played them once.”

A weekend win over Duquesne snapped a 19-game losing streak for the Rams, while the Minutewomen are still in search of their first win since Jan. 15. Both teams are looking for a win in the season finale to take some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason.

“It’s been hard for all of us,” McDerment said of the recent skid. “Especially as we’re all kind of like freshmen again with the new coaching staff and we’re all new to each other, so I think that as leaders, me, Maggie [Mulligan], Megan [Burke], Alyx [Stiff], we just have to show them that this is a tough time, but we’re going to get through it.”

UMass has struggled to take care of the basketball during their losing streak, having turned the ball over upward of 20 times on four different occasions. With URI’s tendency to throw out different defensive looks, ball security will be key.

“We’re going to see a lot of junk defenses,” Verdi says. “We’re going to see run and jump to a diamond and one, see zone and see man, so they’re going to mix it up and we have to take care of the basketball.”

A very winnable game provides the Minutewomen with an important opportunity to end the regular season on a high note and a chance for a fresh start of sorts before the postseason.

“It’d be a huge win for us,” McDerment said. “It’d give us the confidence we need going into the tournament and re-instate the fact that we’re working toward being a great team.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Ryan Center.

Amin Touri can be reached at atouri@umass.edu.

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