Minutewomen stunned by last-second free throw

Minutewomen stunned by last-second free throw

By Thomas Haines

A dramatic free throw with one second on the clock sent the UMass women’s basketball team to a heartbreaking 64-63 loss to Saint Louis on Thursday, extending the Minutewomen’s skid to six games.

After SLU tied the game with 25 seconds left, UMass (8-10, 0-5 Atlantic 10) got the ball, but rushed the play and guard Bre Hampton-Bey missed a jump shot. The Billikens got the defensive rebound and drove down the court, where Hailey Leidel was charged with a foul against SLU’s Kerri McMahan with one second left. McMahan hit the second of two free throws to put the Billikens on top.

“We worked really, really hard, we played together as a team,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “It obviously shows that we’re capable of beating some of the best teams in our conference, and for whatever reason it didn’t go our way tonight. We made some mistakes down the stretch, and we gave up another one that probably, if we change one or two things, we win.”

Despite leading for most of the game, UMass played poorly on offense, shooting only 30 percent from the field on 76 attempts. Even free throw shooting was subpar, as the Minutewomen shot below 60 percent from the foul line.

Verdi pointed to the offensive inefficiency, rather than the final sequence, for the close loss.

“You look at it, we missed 53 shots from the field,” Verdi said. “You can’t miss 53 shots from the field.”

The Minutewomen’s offensive struggles stemmed from that inefficiency and failure to control the basket. Despite racking up offensive rebounds, UMass had 10 shots blocked and was outscored in the paint 28-16.

The lone bright spot for the Minutewomen on offense was Leidel, who shot 8-17 and hit five of UMass’ nine three-pointers to finish with 23 points.

“We took 20 more field goal attempts than they did. So that tells you how hard we were working,” Verdi said. “We had 21 offensive rebounds. 21. We’ve just got to do a better job of finishing around the basket, and we’re 9-27 from the three-point line. So we’ve just got to knock down some shots, especially late-game.”

On defense, UMass held down Saint Louis for three quarters before surrendering 22 points in the fourth, including an 8-0 run by the Billikens in the final three minutes. The defensive efforts were marred by 19 personal fouls, which generated 16 points on free throws for Saint Louis.

Still, Verdi said that the defense deserved credit for limiting SLU on a night when the UMass offense wasn’t clicking.

“Obviously it was very good, it was what we needed to do,” Verdi said. “This is a three-point shooting team, and we held them to 4-14 from the three-point line. And that’s what they do.”

Thursday night’s loss marked the sixth straight for UMass, evoking memories of last year’s 11-game losing streak to close out the season. Despite having an identical record to last year’s team through 18 games, Verdi said that the improvement was there, even if it hasn’t showed yet.

“Last year when we played here, we lost by 40 points,” Verdi said. “It wasn’t even a game. It was embarrassing. So you look at the strides we’re making as a team and we’re getting there. Now, they’re not tallying up in the win column just yet, but they will.”

Improved or not, the Minutewomen come back to UMass with an 8-10 record and no conference wins. Their next game comes Sunday at home against struggling Virginia Commonwealth, another A-10 opponent.

“This team has the ability, when we’re consistent, to do some really good things,” Verdi said. “But for whatever reason, it didn’t go our way.”


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