Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball comeback falls short against George Washington

17-point halftime deficit proves too large for Minutewomen

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(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

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George Washington’s Mei-Lyn Bautista hit a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that put the UMass women’s basketball team in a 17-point hole on Wednesday night, and the Minutewomen never recovered, falling 55-49 on the road.

The 3-pointer capped off a 15-0 run for the Colonials to end the second quarter, who outscored UMass (11-15, 3-10 Atlantic 10) 18-4 in the second. The Minutewomen battled back to cut the lead to six with less than a minute to go, but GW (13-12, 8-5 A-10) dribbled out the clock to hand UMass its third straight loss.

“At the end of every period, we’ve got to make sure we do a good job of getting up and getting high hands and we can’t allow them to just get a look at the basket,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t do a great job of doing that [at the end of the first half], and obviously the shot went off the glass and went in. It was a momentum-builder for them.”

UMass struggled on offense all the way, coming in below 50 points for the third time in its last five games. The Minutewomen barely cleared 30 points by the end of the third before a furious comeback attempt in the final period.

“We just couldn’t score, couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” Verdi said. “Offense was there, execution was there. We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”

Down by 14 entering the fourth quarter, the UMass offense came alive, scoring 18 points in the final period and six in the final thirty seconds.

“I thought we had a great sense of urgency down the stretch,” Verdi said. “I thought we played well in the fourth period. We did a lot of good things, played really hard. But it can’t be two minutes, it can’t be four minutes. It’s got to be forty minutes.”

The Minutewomen kept the game close with a strong defensive effort, holding the Colonials below 60 points and finishing with five steals.

“We did a really good job mixing things up within what we were doing defensively,” Verdi said. “It created some confusion, and we were flying around defensively. We did a great job communicating, but we made some mistakes where we allowed their 3-point shooters to get some shots off. But overall I was pleased with their effort.”

Center Maggie Mulligan was the lone bright spot for UMass, logging 16 points and 12 rebounds on the evening.

On a night where Mulligan dominated the paint and the Minutewomen’s defense held, GW’s perimeter game made the difference. The Colonials shot 10 3-pointers, led by five makes from Bautista.

UMass, on the other hand, couldn’t buy a three, shooting just 2-12 from downtown on the game. Mulligan was the only player for UMass to reach double-digit points, and nearly all of her shots came in the paint. Hailey Leidel scored nine points and hit the only threes for the Minutewomen.

“It wasn’t like they were scoring at will offensively either,” Verdi said. “We’ve got to find ways to score. Teams are doing a really good job of playing our personnel, taking away their strengths, so we’ve got to figure out a way to score.”

Coming off the loss, UMass returns from the D.C. road trip for a home game against Davidson on Saturday. It’s a quick turnaround for the Minutewomen, who are now on a three-game losing streak with only three games left before the A-10 tournament.

“We’ve been out on the road for five nights,” Verdi said. “It’s been long travel, and it’s been taxing on our kids. So, we want to get them back home, get them acclimated again, back to school. Decompress, watch film tomorrow, and on Friday, we’ve got to prep for Davidson. And then we’ve got to bring it.”

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

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