Hailey Leidel and Maggie Mulligan must overcome short slump in order to beat George Washington on Wednesday

The Minutewomen embark on final game of the road trip


(Chris O'Keefe/Daily Collegian)

By Dan McGee, Collegian Staff

After a tough 71-60 loss to George Mason on Sunday, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team (11-14, 3-9 Atlantic 10) will look to get back on track Wednesday in their matchup against George Washington University (12-12, 7-5, A-10).

To rebound successfully after a disappointing loss like the one suffered on Sunday, UMass must be better. To begin playing better as a team however, star players Hailey Leidel and Maggie Mulligan must get their play back to their expectations.

“Hailey’s just got to do the little things,” said UMass coach Tory Verdi. “If she’s not shooting the ball well for us right now, there’s so many different ways to impact the game. You can’t allow your lack of offensive production to affect the defensive end.”

Leidel, who has shot just 4-13 and 4-18 over the last two games, has been in a bit of an offensive slump. The reigning Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year still sits fourth in the conference in three-point percentage, but her recent slide has hurt the Minutewomen’s offensive production as of late. Coach Verdi admits that Hailey’s play hasn’t been up to par in recent games.

“There’s a snowball effect there, but [Hailey] has to do the little things,” Verdi said. “She has to go attack the basket and get to the free throw line to get herself going, and maybe hit a feel-good shot. But in the end we need her to score. Her going 4-18 definitely hurts us.”

Senior forward Maggie Mulligan has also been in a bit of a slump, shooting below 50 percent and getting into foul trouble early the past two games. The premier inside threat for the Minutewomen, Mulligan’s inability to stay on the floor as of late, has allowed teams to take advantage of them on the interior.
“When Maggie gets in foul trouble it hurts us tremendously,” Verdi said. “It hurts us offensively, it hurts us defensively. She understands she has to do a great job of not committing these fouls, but teams understand that taking her out of the game hurts us.”

The presence of Mulligan, who sits fifth in the A-10 in rebounds, averaging 9.6 per game, impacts the game immensely for the Minutewomen.

Typically, when Mulligan gets into foul trouble, Verdi alters his 2-3 zone to include Hailey Leidel at the center position.

Mulligan’s absence on the court creates a compounding effect on the rest of the team, as Leidel’s defense is missed on the wing as well. If the Minutewomen want to bounce back on Wednesday, it’s imperative Mulligan stays on the court for as long as she can.

Though Leidel and Mulligan’s play greatly affects the outcome of Wednesday’s game, UMass shot a very poor 29 percent and 36.8 percent in the last two games, respectively.

Tory Verdi has taken some words out of Bill Belichick’s book on how Leidel, Mulligan and the rest of the team can improve for next game, and from this point out.

“We all just have to be systematic and we all just have to do our jobs.”

Tip off from Washington D.C will commence at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @DMcGeeUMass.