Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Minutewomen hold on to defeat VCU, snap losing streak

By Thomas Haines

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(Katherine Mayo/Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team snapped a six-game losing streak with a 79-75 win over Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, led by freshman Bre Hampton-Bey’s career-high 31 points.

After a last-second free throw sent UMass to defeat against Saint Louis on Thursday, UMass (9-10, 1-5 Atlantic-10) had a moment of déjà vu when Alexia Allesch was charged with a foul on a three-point attempt by VCU (4-14, 1-5 A-10). This time, with UMass clinging to a four-point lead and less than a second on the clock, VCU’s Niya Johnson missed three straight free throws to seal the UMass win.

“It’s about finishing,” coach Tory Verdi said. “We’re executing offensively, we’re getting high-percentage shots, and I thought today we did a better job of finishing.”

The star for UMass was Hampton-Bey, who shot 11-17 from the field and finished with 31 points, five rebounds and four steals. She also hit some big shots when UMass needed them, most notably a fadeaway jumper and subsequent free throw late in the fourth to give UMass breathing room.

“She’s our catalyst, she makes us go,” Verdi said. “She did a great job of attacking downhill and making some things happen for us. She has to be consistent with that, and she was terrific here today.”

The scoring outburst came just three days after Hampton-Bey shot only 2-14 against Saint Louis University in a game marked by the Minutewomen’s offensive inefficiency.

“Just working on my shot and being patient,” Hampton-Bey said of the difference between the two games. “Not trying to rush everything, taking one thing at a time.”

UMass started hot, producing an 11-0 run in the first four minutes of the game and 25 points in the first quarter. Although VCU cut the deficit to two in the final minutes, the Minutewomen never relinquished the lead.

“I just think our energy was ready, coming off a loss like that last game,” Hampton-Bey said. We were just so eager to get out here and get a win tonight. We were all focused. We were just in beast mode, we were ready to go.”

The main difficulty for the Minutewomen came when center Maggie Mulligan got into foul trouble early in the second period, ultimately fouling out late in the fourth. That forced Verdi to bring in freshman Alexia Allesch for 21 minutes, which tied her career high.

“Once Maggie Mulligan got in foul trouble, it hurt us,” Verdi said. “We didn’t have an inside presence, we didn’t have a balanced scoring attack inside-outside, and that’s something that we need.”

With Mulligan limited to 20 minutes, the Minutewomen were forced to adjust their strategy, particularly on offense. Despite the adjustments, VCU outscored UMass by eight points in the paint and outrebounded the Minutewomen until the final minute.

“We tried to spread the floor a little bit, tried to get in more pick and roll situations, and trying to get our guards to attack downhill a little bit more,” Verdi said. “But again, she needs to stay on the floor for us. Some silly fouls, but I’m just pleased that we were resilient enough to get the win.”

The win was the first A-10 win for UMass this year and snapped a six-game losing streak. Despite the added pressure, Verdi said that the game was no more important than any other.

“The stakes are high every single game,” Verdi said. “It’s a conference game and regardless of who we’re playing, when we’re playing, every game means just the same.”

Particularly coming off the tough loss against SLU, however, Hampton-Bey said that closing out the narrow victory was significant.

“I just never want that to happen ever again,” Hampton-Bey said of the ending against SLU. “I just feel like we’ve got to take care of the ball, make the right plays and execute, and we’ll definitely win there.”

Following the win over VCU, the Minutewomen head on the road to face Davidson on Wednesday.

 

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @thainessports.

 

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