UMass women’s basketball returns to Mullins after successful Texas road trip

By Thomas Haines

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

Home games against Fisher College and Saint Peter’s University await the Massachusetts women’s basketball team Thursday and Sunday respectively, as the Minutewomen return home from a three-game road trip in Texas.

After winning two of the three road games, UMass (5-4) will face Fisher on Thursday night. Fisher, a Division II school, is 5-5 going into Thursday’s game.

“This is a team that has three players – the point guard, and both the two-guard and three-guard – who can all score the ball,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said of Fisher. “They can shoot the ball, they can score at all three levels and they’re very aggressive offensively. So we’ve got to do a great job of identifying them, knowing where they are.”

Fisher’s top three scorers are Madison Carroll, Murphy Carroll and Choon-Hee Chae, each of whom is averaging more than 15 points per game. The three of them power the Falcons offense, which is averaging over 75 points per game.

On the other side, UMass’ defense has held opponents under 50 points in four games this season. Bre Hampton-Bey, who in her first year is starting at point guard for the Minutewomen, said that maintaining an aggressive approach on defense would be key against Fisher College.

“Their strengths are shooting, and pushing the ball and definitely rebounding,” Hampton-Bey said of Fisher. “So we just have to box out and be aggressive on both ends of the floor, especially on defense, because I think that’s where we can stop them the most.”

After Fisher, UMass will face Saint Peter’s on Sunday. Saint Peter’s (3-4) enters Thursday under .500 following a two-game losing streak.

“More focusing on Fisher right now, but I’ve watched some film on Saint Peter’s,” Verdi said. “They’re going to get up and pressure us, they’re athletic, and again, they’re going to put us in a position where we’ve got to take care of the basketball.”

UMass will play its first games at the Mullins Center since the dramatic win over Liberty University two weeks ago. On the season, the Minutewomen are 3-1 at home and 1-3 on the road, with last Saturday’s game at a neutral site.

The Minutewomen are coming off an 85-46 win over Mississippi Valley State, a winless opponent, where they dominated in all phases of the game. Verdi said that the win was an encouraging sign, but that the team needs to be more consistent.

“We’re knocking down perimeter shots right now, we’re playing good basketball,” Verdi said. “You take our trip that we just came back from, Incarnate Word and Mississippi Valley State, those were two games where we were really, really good for six out of eight periods. The one thing I’d like to see is to be a little more consistent in the fourth period. But we’re shooting the ball well, we’re sharing the basketball.”

Part of the inconsistency, according to Verdi, stems from all the new players on the team.

“The inconsistency just comes from, number one, all the new faces in our programs,” Verdi said. “We have new players. We’re trying to grow the new ones, get them some time. They’ve got to get comfortable with what we’re doing, and understanding too what’s a good shot and what isn’t, time and score. So those are some of the things we’ve been working on.”

Currently, the Minutewomen are just a game better than they were through nine games last season. That year, UMass struggled with depth and finished on an 11-game losing streak. Verdi said that this year’s team is different.

“We’re in year two with me at the helm, and I think we’re growing the program, moving the needle,” Verdi said. “We won nine games last year, we’re getting closer to that with every game right now. I like our development. I think we’re bringing the right kids into our program.”

Tipoff against Fisher College will be at 7 p.m. Thursday. The game against Saint Peter’s will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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