Three-point shooting sinks UMass women’s basketball in loss to George Mason

By Jamie Cushman

Jessica George (22) dribbles the ball in the game against George Mason on Sunday afternoon. (Chris O'Keefe/Daily Collegian)
Jessica George (22) dribbles the ball in the game against George Mason on Sunday afternoon. (Chris O’Keefe/Daily Collegian)

Despite showing some resiliency in the fourth quarter, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team could not make up for a fast start from George Mason in which the Patriots made six 3-pointers in the first half, ultimately falling 66-55 in the Atlantic 10 opener on Sunday at the Mullins Center.

This marks the second straight game where UMass (4-4, 0-1 A-10) went down early due to the 3-pointer, after Hartford made nine 3-pointers in the first half against the Minutewomen on Wednesday.

“It’s like a punch in the face,” freshman guard Hailey Leidel said. “You have your game plan and then they come out and shoot well and it just seems like you’re not doing things right, but we just need to keep level headed.”

“We get down on ourselves kind of quickly when that happens, and it’s happened multiple times this season, [our opponents] came out hot on the threes. We just need to stick together no matter what, even if they come out hot, we just have to stick together and overcome it,” Leidel said.

UMass coach Tory Verdi thinks the team needs to do a better job of finding where those 3-point shooters are going to be on the court.

“We’re going to continue to do what we do and the fact that they were able to knock down threes, it’s all part of the game,” Verdi said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of locating where they are. We have players set defensively and they need to understand when they’re supposed to go out and close out. Their heads need to be on a swivel and they need to identify and locate shooters.”

Guard Sarah Kaminksi did the bulk of the 3-point damage for George Mason (5-4, 1-0 A-10), knocking down four 3-pointers, with guards Kara Wright and Jacy Bolton also adding a pair of 3-pointers each.

The Minutewomen failed to match the Patriots’ 3-point output, shooting 4-13 from beyond the arc.

Three-point shooting has not been a strength for the Minutewomen this season, shooting only 29.3 percent through eight games, as Leidel entered the game as the Minutewomen’s leading scorer from 3-point range.

Leidel struggled to convert from beyond the arc against George Mason where she shot 3-10.

“I just felt that in the beginning she was pressing a little bit, and again, when you’re not making shots and you’re coming up with empty possessions obviously it affects you defensively, but we have to have short-term memory, and we’ve got to play every possession like it’s the last possession of a championship game,” Verdi said.

Leidel said that she doesn’t feel any more pressure to make 3-pointers herself when the other team starts out strong from beyond the arc.

“When they start to make shots, it’s not really like I feel like I have to one-up them, I just know I have to do my role,” Leidel said. “Whatever we need at that time, definitely I just feel like I have to do that. There’s no pressure to make a three because they made a three.”

Leidel’s seven missed 3-pointers against the Patriots means she will be shooting 700 3-pointers at the following practice, a new system that was established recently with the team where a player takes 100 3-pointers at practice for every 3-pointer she missed during the game.

Leidel realizes the importance of the new rule and appreciates the value of the extra repetitions at practice.

“I understand where it’s coming from because definitely the first time I did it I came out hot the next game, so I understand where that’s coming from and definitely you want to have reps, so it’s basically just giving me reps,” Leidel said.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Jamie__Cushman.