Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball blows 18-point third-quarter lead Wednesday afternoon against La Salle

Imogen Fairs/Collegian
Imogen Fairs/Collegian

After blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead Saturday against George Washington, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team needed to find a way to close out games. Wednesday afternoon, UMass once again watched a second half lead falter away, falling to La Salle 68-64 at Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia.

With five minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter, it looked as though the Minutewomen (9-13, 3-6 Atlantic 10) would cruise to an easy victory. UMass was leading by 18 points and the Explorers (12-8, 5-3 A-10) offense was struggling after making only one field goal until that point in the second half.

Then, La Salle began executing its offense and went on a 14-4 run, cutting the Minutewomen lead to 52-42 going into the fourth quarter.

The Explorers offense erupted for 26 points in the final frame after scoring only 25 in the first half alone. Their offense was paced by guard Amy Griffin, who had eight of her 17 points in the fourth quarter, six of which came in the final 1:28 of the game.

“It came down to executing in the fourth period, turning the ball over and not executing both offensively and defensively down the stretch,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said after the game.

“That pretty much sums it up.”

The Explorers cut the Minutewomen lead down to one with 1:28 to go courtesy of a Griffin jumper. After a missed layup from UMass guard Leah McDerment, Griffin got to the line on La Salle’s next possession and converted one of two free throws to tie the game with 31 seconds remaining. The Minutewomen had held the lead from the 6:03 mark in the first quarter.

On UMass’ final possession, there was a lazy handoff and La Salle’s Jasmine Alston poked the ball away from McDerment, and got sent to the line with five seconds left.

Alston missed the first free throw, but sunk the second to give the Explorers their first lead of the second half. UMass inbounded the ball, but Griffin intercepted a McDermott crosscourt pass and drilled a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We have to grow up,” Verdi said. “When the game gets tough, we have to step up and counter punch and have confidence, and everyone needs to do their jobs when called upon and step up.”

The Minutewomen finished the game with 22 turnovers, 14 of which were steals by the Explorers. Freshmen Hailey Leidel finished the game with a double-double, scoring a game-high 20 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. McDerment, center Maggie Mulligan and senior Alyx Stiff each finished with 12 points. La Salle was led by sophomore Adreana Miller, who had 18 points on six 3-pointers.

Verdi was not pleased with the way his team closed out the game, and hopes that they can learn from the past two games in which they held large second half leads.

“I’m not necessarily sure [our execution] is happening when times are tough, when the game is on the line for whatever reason,” Verdi said. “It’s an area we need to continue to grow in and develop and continue to teach.”

The Minutewomen will look to turn things around Saturday, as they take on VCU in Richmond, Virginia. Tip off is set for 1 p.m.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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