McDerment acts as major catalyst for UMass offense in 68-62 win against Bryant

By Mollie Walker

Leah McDerment had 14 assists in their game against Bryant.  Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)
Leah McDerment had 14 assists in their game against Bryant.
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

A career-high 14 assist performance from junior captain Leah McDerment propelled the University of Massachusett’s women’s basketball team past Bryant University in a neck-and-neck 68-62 finish.

At the end of the first half, McDerment had already accumulated nine assists to contribute to the Minutewomen’s 36–33 halftime lead.

“[McDerment] is our catalyst,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m probably the toughest on her of anybody because she’s a leader on the floor.”

Once McDerment’s first quarter stats were revealed, the possibility of tying or breaking the UMass all-time assist record was the hot topic. The record is set at 15 assists in a single game by Christel Zullo against Temple University in 1986.

Although McDerment was just one assist shy of tying the record, the accomplishment still stands as an indicator of its possibility.

“I mean I feel I just set the bar really high for myself,” McDerment said. “I always knew I was capable of producing such numbers and now I’ve given myself the confidence that I can do it again.”

Verdi described his dynamic with McDerment as a love/hate relationship, as a result of the expectorations he’s set for her.

“She’s a coach on the floor, she makes us go,” Verdi said. “She does a fabulous job for us there.”

McDerment admitted that assists are the main thing she strives for during games. She referred to herself as “the playmaker” and mentioned how Verdi consistently refers to her as “the catalyst.”

“I feel like I’m the player that always looks for everyone and I know I can create for everyone,” McDerment said.

Though in games like these, McDerment is grateful for her team’s ability to hit the open shot.

Freshman Hailey Leidel lead the team with 23 points. She was 5-5 from behind the arc and shot 61.5 percent from the field. Ryan Holder’s offensive performance was right behind Leidel’s with 16 points with an added two blocks in defense.

“Today when they’re knocking down shots like that, it was easy, they made my job really easy,” McDerment said.

Verdi was pleased with the way his team matched up to the Bulldogs, taking into consideration the adversity of having McDerment’s co-captain Maggie Mulligan on the bench with three fouls. Mulligan sat for an extensive period of time and Leidel was forced to slide into the five-spot.

“We’ve done it in practice, but to actually go out there and do it I think [Leidel] did a great job,” Verdi said. “And the fact that we went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter, it was the right timing.”

Verdi did not overlook Alyx Stiff’s 11-point impact on the scoreboard. After returning from injury mentioning how nice it was to have another shooter on the floor.

The Bulldogs are just the second team to outscore the Minutewomen in the paint this season, accumulating 38 points as opposed to UMass’s 34.  That aspect of the game stuck out to Verdi as an area that needs work, along with the 12-2 run for Bryant at the end of the game.

“I’d like to see us close the game a little bit better,” Verdi said “But we we’re tough today, and it was a good win for us.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at @[email protected] or followed on Twitter @MWalker2019.