UMass women’s basketball falls to North Dakota 82-52

By Thomas Haines

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team lost 82-52 against North Dakota on Sunday for their second straight loss, falling to 2-2 on the year.

UMass (2-2) fell behind early in the game, never holding the lead. North Dakota opened up a 22-10 lead in the first quarter, and the Fighting Hawks pulled away from there, outscoring the Minutewomen in each quarter to finish with a 30-point win. It was an uncharacteristic showing from the Minutewomen, who had scored at least 70 points in each of its first three games.

Despite the struggles to score, UMass coach Tory Verdi said that the Minutewomen played the offensive game plan well and created opportunities.

“We just have to be more efficient,” Verdi said. “We were creating the high-percentage shots, now we just have to make them.”

UMass struggled to make shots all evening. The Minutewomen finished 20-72 from the field, converting only 27.8 percent of their shots. On 3-point attempts the numbers were even worse, as UMass made only two 3-pointers in the game. Even free throws were off, as UMass converted less than 65 percent of their shots from the line.

The game was particularly rough for starting center Maggie Mulligan, who went 2-16 from the field and 2-4 on free throws, and Hailey Leidel, who shot 2-13 from the field. Leidel came off the bench after playing 40 minutes and shooting 4-17 in Friday’s loss to North Dakota State.

Verdi expressed full confidence that Mulligan and Leidel’s performances on Sunday night were blips on the radar.

“I’m not worried about those two. Sometimes you go on the road and struggle a little bit,” Verdi said.

The Fighting Hawks got their first win of the year in their home opener after losses to South Dakota State and No. 17 Oregon State. Despite the fact that North Dakota was winless coming into the game, Verdi said that they were a strong opponent.

“No question, they had a good defense,” Verdi said. “That said, we were able to generate some high-percentage shots against them. If we make those shots, suddenly we’re looking at a much closer game.”

The loss comes on the heels of an 82-70 defeat at the hands of North Dakota State on Friday night, in which the Minutewomen put up a strong showing on offense powered by 20-point games from both Genesis Rivera and Bre Hampton-Bey. Against North Dakota two days later, only two players managed to reach double-digit points.

The two losses on the North Dakota trip marked the first two road games of the season for UMass, which went 1-14 on the road last year. Heading into the trip, Verdi said that the Minutewomen had to do a better job of overcoming adversity on the road this season.

“Each and every single day we’re growing, we’re getting better,” Verdi said. “But we’ve got to do a better job of, when we do face adversity on the road, we’ve got to come together and we’ve got to be tougher. That’s something that, when we’re on the road, it’s easy to allow that adversity to creep in and fatigue you, and stop doing all those little things that you’re supposed to do.”

The Minutewomen will look to put an end to their losing streak on Friday when they return home for a game against Northeastern.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.