Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball in search of better execution against Saint Louis Wednesday

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(Jone Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

(Jong Man Kim/ Daily Collegian)

When speaking with Massachusetts women’s basketball coach Tori Verdi, one would never know his team was on a four-game losing streak.

After winning three of its first four games of the New Year, UMass has dropped its last four games, two of which it blew double-digit second-half leads. Going into Wednesday’s game against the second-placed team in the Atlantic 10, Saint Louis (17-5, 7-2 A-10), Verdi has kept a positive outlook, seeing that if his team cleans up certain areas of play, its record would be much different.

“First thing we need to do a better at would be taking care of the basketball,” Verdi said. “Look at our losses and they’re a one or two possession game, so for us we’re playing extremely hard. I love our team’s effort. It’s one or two more layups made or one or two fewer turnovers and we win those games. I’d like to see us come out here on Wednesday night and have a ton of energy, be disciplined, take care of the basketball and finish around the rim.”

The Minutewomen (9-14, 3-7 A-10) have had 10 of their games decided by six points or fewer, going 5-5 in those contests. UMass’ leading scorer freshman Hailey Leidel is not deterred by the team’s recent struggles.

“It’s not fun but we know [the games have been] close and could have easily gone the other way,” Leidel said. “It hasn’t killed our outlook as much as many may think it has.”

In addition to her scoring, Leidel, has been hitting the glass consistently grabbing 10 or more rebounds in the past three games. Playing on a team that’s lineup employs four guards and one big, her willingness to grab rebounds will be critical against the Billikens, who are second in the A-10 in rebounding margin (plus 5.3 rebounds per game).

“I told myself I need to do more rebounding because I wasn’t happy with the way that I was rebounding,” Leidel said. “I think it was more of me telling myself that this was something I need to do more of and it’s showing in the stats.”

The Minutewomen will have their hands full with the SLU offense that ranks first in the A-10 with 74.4 points per game. It features a balanced offense in which every player on the floor is a threat to score. Junior guard Jackie Kemph leads the Billikens in scoring with 14.2 points per game and also leads the team with 7.7 assists per game.

Verdi was complementary of the problems the SLU offense presents to its opponents.

“They have five players on the floor that can all score,” Verdi said. “They shoot the 3 really well, they have drivers, and they have an interior game. They all pass the ball, dribble the ball and shoot the ball very, very well.”

Verdi understands his team will need to put together one of its best defensive performance of the season in order to come out of this game victorious.

“We’re going to have to be on the top of our game defensively. We’re going to have to create some havoc. We’re going to have to fly around. Most importantly, when the shot goes up, we have to go up and get the rebound. If we do those things, we’ll be in a position to win the basketball game.”

UMass will have the benefit of taking on SLU at Mullins Center, where it is 7-3 this season. The team feels that they get an added boost playing in front of their home crowd.

“Great energy,” Leidel said when asked about the added advantage of playing at home. “We’re always a little extra motivated knowing we’re playing at home and we want people to come to see us play, so I think that’s something that makes us more excited in making us want to go that much harder at home.”

“I just think it’s a comfort level,” Verdi added. “We don’t want to disappoint our fans. No matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing, the one thing I’m proud of is the fact that they play so hard each and every night, and when we’re at the Mullins, I know we’ll get our team’s best effort.”

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

About the Writer
Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

Thomas has been writing for The Collegian since his freshman year and is currently an assistant sports editor. He primarily covers men’s basketball and...

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