The Massachusetts women’s basketball team is headed to Texas this week for a three-game road trip with matchups against Incarnate Word, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Mississippi Valley State.
The Minutewomen will look to carry the momentum gained from Saturday’s 64-61 buzzer-beater victory over Liberty into the trip.
“We just have to stay positive,” said guard Paige McCormick, who hit the game winning three-pointer as time expired. “On Saturday, we were all kind of mad about our previous losses, so it set a spark within us.”
After dropping both of its road games against North Dakota State and North Dakota, a spark like Saturday’s win could be what readies UMass for the games in Texas.
“A lot of our energy is predicated from our defense,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “We’ve talked about it and our energy needs to be contagious. We have to bring our energy and enthusiasm right from the jump.”
The Minutewomen defense could play a major role in how this road trip plays out. Averaging 18.5 turnovers per game, Incarnate Word (1-4) is not particularly secure with the basketball. UMass will look to exploit this and continue their tenacious defensive play which forces 9.3 turnovers a game.
The Minutewomen can also look to benefit from a poorly-shooting Cardinals team that shoots a meager 30 percent from the field this year.
After playing at Incarnate Word on Wednesday, the Minutewomen will head south to Edinburg, Texas for the Battle-on-the-Border tournament with games versus UTRGV (6-1) and MVSU (0-4).
Though the first game of its Texas road trip may come against a weaker opponent, UMass must also prepare itself for a fierce UTRGV team who has opened the year to a hot 6-1 start.
“I’m more concerned about us,” said Verdi. “It’s about our mental preparation and doing what we do.”
Verdi cited last week’s matchups against Northeastern and Liberty, adding that the “difference doesn’t matter between the two different teams that are played, rather how the [Minutewomen] come out with energy and focus.”
Off to their best start in 26 years, the Vaqueros have opened the season on fire in all aspects of the game. They’ve shot a strong 37 percent from the field, and 74 percent from the free throw line. UTRGV has also shown strength in the rebounding department, averaging 43.6 boards per game.
UMass senior Maggie Mulligan may have a big assignment on her hands in the matchup going up against UTRGV forward Laura Van Tilburg. Van Tilburg is averaging nearly a double-double on the year with 11.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
The Minutewomen will look to wrap up their road trip with a game against MVSU on Saturday. The Devilettes haven’t had much luck this year, opening to 0-4 start. However, the second game of a back-to-back is never easy, particularly for an inexperienced squad like the Minutewomen.
The Texas road trip will be the last big one for UMass this season. The youthful team is feeling more optimistic after their first road trip to North Dakota didn’t go as planned, as they now know what to expect while away from Amherst.
Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected]