Minutewomen add depth, prepare for BU

By Amin Touri

Chris O'Keefe/Collegian
Chris O’Keefe/Collegian

As the Massachusetts women’s basketball team nears the halfway point of the season, some much needed depth has finally arrived.

With senior guard Alyx Stiff making her first appearance of the season last week against Hofstra, and junior forward Alyssa Lawrence likely to make her debut Wednesday at Boston University, UMass coach Tory Verdi has a lot more to work with as the Minutewomen (5-5, 0-1 Atlantic 10) prepare to take on the Terriers.

“I’m very excited where we are with our personnel,” Verdi said after Tuesday’s practice. “Getting Alyx back and Alyssa, you’re getting two returners that played last year. We need some depth, obviously, and we’re expecting them to jump right into things, and we’re going to get them involved quickly.”

It’s been a rocky start for BU, as the Terriers stand a dismal 1-9 through their first 10 games. Despite the poor record, Verdi won’t let his team look past their opponents, with UMass looking for its first road win of the year.

“Every game we approach as the biggest game of the season,” Verdi said. “Regardless of whether they’re 1-9 or whatever their record is. Going on the road is tough, so we just need to go out there and play, compete for 40 minutes, and if we do that we’ll get a win.”

Guard Sarah Hope and center Sophie Beaudry lead the way for BU, with Hope averaging 11 points per game and the 6-foot-5-inch Beaudry picking up 10 points and six rebounds per game this season.

“They have a ton of size,” Verdi said. “They like to pound the ball inside, so we have to make sure we have a ton of ball pressure, and we can’t allow them to lob the ball inside and we need to be really aggressive inside. We have to clog up the paint, and we’ve talked about it, worked on it, so now it’s just about going out and executing.”

While the Terriers are struggling, the Minutewomen are in high spirits after a big win over Bryant on Sunday, as the depth is building and things feel like they’re coming together.

“The morale is good,” junior guard Leah McDerment said. “I think that everyone is developing each and every day. The chemistry is really great, and we’re coming together well, and now we’re getting Alyssa back which adds another dimension to our team.”

McDerment, who serves as a captain for the team, was one of the stars of the afternoon on Sunday, coming a single assist short of the program record of 15. McDerment, however, isn’t letting that production get to her head.

“I’m not worried about it,” she said. “I’m not going into the game saying ‘I need 14 assists again,’ I think you’re setting yourself up for disaster if you do that, you start overthinking things. I’m just going to go in there, do my thing, do what I normally do, and hopefully come out with a decent number again.”

While McDerment racks up the assists, and freshman Hailey Leidel handles most of the scoring load, junior center Maggie Mulligan is the other key cog for the Minutewomen, and will benefit the most from Lawrence’s return. Mulligan has flourished this season, picking up eight double-doubles in 10 games, taking a significant uptick in minutes—from 20.8 minutes a game last season to just over 34 minutes a night this year—and running with it.

“I just try not to take any plays off,” Mulligan said of her production. “We’re all in really good shape which really helps, being able to play 30-40 minutes if I’m not in foul trouble. It’s not a matter of getting double-doubles, I’m just doing what I can with my minutes to be efficient.”

After taking on the Terriers at Agganis Arena on Wednesday, UMass will host its final non-conference home game on Sunday against Holy Cross, before A-10 play kicks off at the end of December.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected].