UMass women’s basketball falls to Davidson, as it enters final A-10 stretch

By Amin Touri

Ryan Holder looks to pass the ball during Saturday’s game against Davidson. (Jessica Picard/Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team has dropped more than its fair share of winnable games this season, and Saturday afternoon was no different.

Turnovers, missed opportunities and foul trouble plagued the Minutewomen (9-16, 3-9 Atlantic 10) in their penultimate home game, playing catch-up all afternoon in a frustrating 63-59 loss to Davidson.

Led by 34 points from guard Justine Lyon, the Wildcats (4-19, 2-9 A-10) capitalized on a sloppy UMass performance. The Minutewomen were outrebounded 39-31, and turned the ball over 17 times as Davidson doubled UMass’ point total off of turnovers.

“I thought that we played hard, and did a good job of fighting to the end,” said junior guard Leah McDerment, “but we came out slow, and that’s been the issue the last couple of games. We let teams get off on a good foot, and we’ve not been able to bounce back and we end up having to fight the entire game and never get into our groove, really.”

Twenty-two points from senior guard Alyx Stiff—including a few clutch baskets in the final minute—weren’t enough to save the Minutewomen, with leading scorers Hailey Leidel and Maggie Mulligan struggling all afternoon.

“I thought our inability to score hurt us today,” said head coach Tory Verdi, “and foul trouble with Maggie hurt us today. Had to be something that we weren’t, and we’re fighting fatigue right now, but we can’t allow that to be our excuse. We’ve been playing all year with a lack of depth, and we have to figure out a way to fight adversity.”

Mulligan, who ranks second nationally in double-doubles this season, was roughed up underneath by a physical Davidson team, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds after fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Leidel had one of her roughest shooting performances of the season, as the usually sharpshooting freshman was just 2-11 from the field and 1-8 from three-point land.

With Mulligan sitting, UMass was without a post-presence in the final minutes. The Wildcats managed to stifle any comeback attempt, while hitting their free throws to seal the contest.

Another loss makes six consecutive defeats for the Minutewomen, who are now left reeling from their turnover-laden losing streak.

“I think our downfall continues to be boxing out and rebounding,” said Stiff, “giving them second-chance points. Our turnovers are messing us up, but I think we all really try hard and do what we can.”

The box score was reflective of the rebounding shortfall, as Davidson outscored UMass by a massive 20-3 margin on second-chance points. The Minutewomen also only shot 25 percent from three on Saturday.

“Well, we’ve gone three weeks without a win now,” said Verdi. “But I truly believe that when we’re on and we’re playing our best basketball, and we can knock down shots from the perimeter, we’re pretty good. We haven’t done that in a while, therefore everyone’s clogging up the interior on us and it’s hard to score. It’s hard to score when you can’t score on the perimeter.”

UMass was hosting the annual Play4Kay cancer awareness day, in honor of the late Kay Yow, the legendary long-time head coach of the women’s basketball team at North Carolina State. Yow, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, lost her extended battle with breast cancer in 2009.

“It means a lot,” said Verdi. “Number one, it’s a great cause, brings awareness to an ugly disease that has taken people from across the country, whatever we can do to help awareness and help the cause we’re definitely going to do. I appreciate everyone coming out and supporting that for us.”

The Mullins Center was covered in pink, as the Minutewomen suited up in special pink uniforms and sneakers in honor of Yow and breast cancer awareness.

“For me personally, I’ve lost a few people to cancer,” Stiff says, “and my grandma actually has cancer now, so it definitely means a lot to me and the whole team. Not every person has a personal experience with it, but it all means so much to them because it shows how much people fight.”

“Kay Yow was such an inspiration,” she added. “If you want something, go get it, and don’t let anything stop you.”

UMass heads to Fordham on Saturday and Richmond on Feb. 15, before returning to the Mullins Center to face La Salle for Senior Day on Feb. 19.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected]