UMass women’s basketball losing streak extends to 10 games after loss to URI

By Jamie Cushman

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team continues to find new ways to lose games, with the latest edition being a 53-50 loss to Rhode Island on Wednesday, blowing a four-point lead with three minutes left in the game.

Besides taking a six-point lead into the final quarter and being outscored 17-8, UMass (9-20, 3-13 Atlantic 10) had chances to tie the game in the final minute but could not take advantage, dropping a 10th straight game to close out the season.

Junior Maggie Mulligan went to the free throw line with 34 seconds remaining and the Minutewomen trailing by two, and could only hit one from the line. Twenty-four seconds later, Mulligan sunk a layup through a foul with UMass down three, but she missed the free throw to tie it.

After the missed free throw, the clock ticked down from 10 seconds to one second as the Minutewomen struggled to foul the URI (6-22, 2-14 A-10) ball handler.

“I thought that our lack of focus and awareness down the stretch hurt us, especially understanding when to foul, understanding time to score,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said.

“It’s frustrating because you execute, you get what you want, they foul and we go to the line, and we come up empty,” Verdi added. “You can’t have an empty possession in a tight game, so we gave them life down the stretch.”

Although the Minutewomen never really opened the game up—their largest lead was eight points—they led from 2:12 left in the opening quarter until there was just two minutes remaining in the game, seemingly in control until the Rams’ late run.

“That’s what I meant by giving them life,” Verdi said. “We were right there up two to three possessions and you have time to extend your lead, and we missed layups. We had missed opportunities both at the free throw line and point blank.”

Mulligan led the Minutewomen in rebounds (11) and tied for the lead in points (14) on the way to her 20th double-double of the season, but her missed opportunities stuck out more than her successes.

“I thought she could have played better,” Verdi said of Mulligan. “Her shot was blocked a ton of times and obviously missed a ton of free throws. She’s an upperclassman, she’s got to knock them down, she’s got to be confident. I’m confident in her and expect her to knock them down.”

Hailey Leidel also finished with 14 points, but disappeared late in the game, scoring five points in the 3rd quarter before being held off the scoreboard in the final frame.

“[Leidel] got off to a great start and was knocking down shots, and that’s what we needed for her to do. It disappeared, for whatever reason, it disappeared,” Verdi said.

“When you’re up two or three possessions, someone’s got to step up and knock down that big shot to get you where you need to be in order to win, and we’ve been searching for that person.”

UMass will open up the tournament against Saint Louis on Sunday at 3 p.m.

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