Massachusetts Daily Collegian

High-powered offense propels Minutewomen over MVS

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(Collegian file photo)

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team defeated Mississippi Valley State 85-46 Saturday to improve to 5-4 on the year.

UMass bounced back from a loss against Texas-Rio Grande Valley the night before to climb back above .500. With the loss, MVSU dropped to 0-6 on the season.

“We executed very well, we knocked down shots,” coach Tory Verdi said. “We got an early lead and it just continued to grow from there. I thought our players, a lot of them, knew just how big a win this would be for us, and just went out there and played extremely hard.”

The Minutewomen scored the most points since opening the season against Maine-Fort Kent, shooting 44 percent from the field and sinking 46 percent of three-point tries.

“I thought we were extremely unselfish; we shared the ball,” Verdi said. “Some of our players had a good shot and made the extra pass to a great shot. It’s tough but we executed really, really well.”

Hailey Leidel and Genesis Rivera led the way for the Minutewomen, each topping 20 points. Rivera hit seven three-pointers, tying the single-game record at UMass.

“She was just knocking down threes,” Verdi said. “I think our guards did a great job of getting the defensive rotation behind her, and she was just spotting up and knocking down the shot.”

The offense scored at least 20 points in the first three periods before slowing in the fourth, scoring only six points and shooting just 20 percent from the field in the final period. Verdi attributed the drop-off to subbing in younger bench players.

“We made substitutions, trying to get some of our freshmen in,” Verdi said. “Allow them to really get them some time and playing experience. Let them fight through some engagement and give them the opportunity to grow. We’re going to need those guys, especially when you’re talking about conference play.”

The Minutewomen excelled on defense as well, holding MVSU to 17 first-half points and generating six steals. Perhaps most importantly, UMass allowed only four second-chance points.

“We did a great job of getting deflections, getting steals,” Coach Verdi said. “ [We] push the ball, we got a lot of transition points. More importantly, we held them to one and done. Our ability to get defensive rebounds is our best offense as well, and we were able to get out in their gaps in the open floor.”

The one area of concern for UMass is turnovers, which remained high for the fifth straight game. Since playing North Dakota two weeks ago, the Minutewomen haven’t gotten through a game with fewer than 17 turnovers.

“[We’re] always concerned. We can’t have more than 14 turnovers per game, and tonight 21, and the previous night 18,” Verdi said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. We’ve got to really value each possession, and we can’t make mental mistakes, mental errors. Sometimes we’re going a little too fast, we force something that maybe doesn’t come out. But again, I think the more games that we get where we’re up, the more playing experience that some of our newbies get, the better we’re going to be.”

The win followed a loss to UTRGV, which is now at 8-2 on the year. UMass’ five wins so far this season have come against teams that have combined for eight wins.

Verdi dismissed the idea that UMass has only beaten soft opponents, citing quality wins against Liberty and Towson. He also said that playing a more difficult opponent in UTRGV was useful experience for the young players.

“UTRGV was a very good team, that’s a team that won 19 games last year,” Verdi said. “Good basketball team, tough environment. And I think playing them was good for our team because it prepared us for conference play, which is a tough environment. It was loud, and I thought it was beneficial to our players.”

The Minutewomen will return to action Thursday against Fisher College at 7 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

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

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