Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Poor shooting pivotal in UMass’ loss to North Dakota

Minutewomen shot under 35 percent from the field

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Poor shooting pivotal in UMass’ loss to North Dakota

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

By Noah Bortle, Collegian Staff

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A season ago, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team suffered a 30-point loss at the hands of North Dakota.

With a chance to avenge last season’s loss Wednesday night at the Mullins Center, the Minutewomen’s (5-3) offense sputtered, eventually falling to the Fighting Hawks (2-3) 59-52.

Managing only seven first quarter points and 18 points total in the first half, UMass found itself still in the game thanks to poor shooting by North Dakota.

“We were very stagnant, we were lethargic, we didn’t have energy,” coach Tory Verdi said. “We had turnovers and really bad shot selection. For whatever reason, we were running in mud.”

The Minutewomen shot 25.9 percent from the field in the first half, with no player topping four points. On top of the poor shooting, point guard Bre Hampton-Bey found herself in foul trouble in the second quarter, leaving UMass’ best guard limited for the rest of the contest.

“We go as Bre Hampton-Bey goes,” Verdi said. “She’s our catalyst, she makes us go. But we need Bre Hampton-Bey out on the floor, there’s no question about it.”

The Minutewomen missed all six of their first half three-point attempts, yet went into halftime in an 18-18 tie.

Despite the poor offensive output, UMass still found itself with a chance to win late in the contest. The Minutewomen trailed by as few as two points in the final two minutes, but were never able to close the gap.

On the night, UMass shot 33.9 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from the foul line compared to 38.9 percent and 76.2 percent respectively from North Dakota.

The Minutewomen looked as if they had found a rhythm in the third quarter, making eight of their 14 shots in the frame. Their 20 third quarter points more than doubled their first half total of 18.

“I felt like we played mentally tough,” Destiney Philoxy said. “We stayed in the game. We looked for Hailey [Leidel] for threes, looked for Jess [George] for threes.”

Another poor shooting quarter in the fourth ultimately sunk the Minutewomen, as their 14 fourth quarter points were not enough to keep pace with the Fighting Hawks.

UMass shot the ball better overall in the second half, hitting its shots at a 41.4 percent clip and making 40 percent of its three-point attempts.

Leidel served as the Minutewomen’s second second-half catalyst, scoring 10 of her 14 points after the half. The junior knocked down three of her nine three-point attempts on the evening, including a shot with 7:47 remaining in the game to cut the North Dakota lead to just two points.

“I think everyone was anxious and we were just throwing up shots,” Leidel said of UMass’ first half. “We weren’t really getting the looks we wanted or taking our time.”

Despite the poor shooting performance, the Minutewomen played well enough to stay in the game. But it was their inability to find the bottom of the basket that hurt them down the stretch as well, with the team missing their last four shot attempts in the game.

“When people just started throwing up shots, obviously it’s going to throw everyone off sync,” Leidel said. “I think it was just a domino effect after that.”

Noah Bortle can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @noah_bortle.

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