Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball host Saint Louis Wednesday at Mullins Center looking to end losing skid

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(Jone Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team will look to snap its season-high four-game losing streak this week heading into a pair of conference games at Mullins Center.

The Minutewomen (9-14, 3-7 Atlantic 10) welcome Saint Louis, the second-ranked team in the A-10, Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tip off. The Billikens come to Amherst riding a three-game winning streak with wins over Fordham, George Washington and Rhode Island.

“You look at our losses and we’re right there,” UMass coach Tori Verdi said. “We’re playing the best teams and it’s a one-to-two possession game each time.”

Freshman Hailey Leidel led UMass with 18 points and 10 rebounds in their most recent 55-52 loss against Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday. Her efforts were enough for her third consecutive double-double.

“I’m feeling great, I think our coach is really confident in us,” Leidel said. “Obviously the last couple games have been really close, he’s been saying we’re right there.”

Leidel’s 18-point performance moved her into second place in UMass’s all-time freshman scoring list with 383 points, just 11 away from passing former point guard Bria Stallworth’s record set last season.

UMass tallied a second 20-plus turnover game and VCU capitalized and converted 24 points at the Minutewomen’s expense. On the other hand, UMass was strong from 3-point range going 7-for-11 from behind the arc.

“That’s just between the ears,” Verdi said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. A lot of those turnovers were unforced, mental relapses.”

Verdi discussed how he’s been training his team to meet their passes instead of waiting for them as well as enforcing communication, which he believes can easily fix a lot of their mistakes.

SLU (17-5, 7-2 A-10) has solidified their reputation as a forceful threat in the A-10 that is not to be taken lightly. The Billikens’ dominant 82-58 win over the Rams clinched their second-place standing, just one game behind Dayton.

The 82-point performance was the highest total of points allowed this season by Fordham, who leads the A-10 in scoring defense with just 57.1 points per game allowed.

“We’ve got to go out there and execute defensively,” Verdi said. “We’ve got to create some havoc. Execute for 40 minutes.”

SLU has gone on separate five and seven-game winning streaks this season and average a strong 74.4 point per game. Recently, guard Jackie Kemph was named A-10 conference co-player of the week for Jan. 23-29. The honor was the junior’s fourth of her career and second of the season.

“My message to [the team] is on any given day we can beat anyone in this conference,” Verdi said.

“It’s one or two missed layups, or one or two less turnovers,” he added. “I still think our best basketball is ahead of us and we’re going to peak at the right time.”

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

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