The Massachusetts women’s basketball team heads to North Dakota this weekend for their first road action of the year. With matchups against both North Dakota State and North Dakota, UMass (2-0) will be looking to improve from their 1-14 road record in their 2016-17 campaign.
Minutewomen coach Tory Verdi looks to adjust his team toward winning more games away from the Mullins Center this season.
“The biggest thing this season is that we have more players,” Verdi said. “Last season we traveled with six healthy players which makes things a little bit difficult.”
During the 2016-17 season, the six healthy UMass players each averaged nearly 35 minutes per game. Playing such a large volume of minutes, in addition to the stress and jet lag caused from travel, there are obvious reasons behind the road struggles from last season.
“We’re better from players one through 11. But when we face adversity on the road, we have to come together, be better and be tougher. Being on the road, it’s easy to let that adversity creep in and fatigue you,” Verdi said.
Toughness and grit hasn’t been much of a problem for the Minutewomen squad so far this season. Their tenacious and steadfast style of defense has translated to 26 and 27 forced turnovers in their wins against Maine-Fort Kent and Towson, respectively.
The Bison (2-0), who, like UMass has only played softer opponents this season, have won through its persevering defense. The Minutewomen will need to match that perseverance to pick up the win.
“It’s all about having the same attitude that we have here. We need to protect our house and then go on the road and have the same mentality. It doesn’t matter where we play, we just need to play the same way,” said senior Leah McDerment.
With both wins this season coming against weaker opponents in the comfort of the Mullins Center, the games against North Dakota State and North Dakota may show a clearer example of how the Minutewomen will play this season.
North Dakota (0-1) has played a much tougher opponent this season in the No. 17 ranked Oregon State, falling 65-55.
A strong start on the road can set the tone for the Minutewomen’s road play for the entire season. UMass takes additional road trips to Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia this season, all of which could be difficult for them.
“We have to maintain the same aggression no matter who we’re playing against,” McDerment said. “We need to go in thinking ‘this is how we play’ and that will dictate how the game turns out. It doesn’t matter who we are playing, it’s about us trying to improve.”
The Minutewomen will be broadcasted on ESPN3 this Friday at 8 p.m. in their matchup versus North Dakota State.
Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected]