Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass women’s basketball falls to North Dakota 59-52

Bad first half dooms Minutewomen in loss

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UMass women’s basketball falls to North Dakota 59-52

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

Alvin Buyinza/Collegian

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s basketball team fell to North Dakota 59-52 Wednesday night at the Mullins Center, in a game UMass would like to forget.

“We were lethargic and didn’t have energy,” said coach Tory Verdi. “For whatever reason, we were running in mud and not executing and flying around the way we’re capable of. That was a little disappointing.”

The Minutewomen (5-3) were led by scoring from junior Hailey Leidel with 14 points and freshman Destiney Philoxy with 12 points. The Fighting Hawks (2-4) were powered by a 30-point night from Lexi Klabo.

“We just turned and left their best player untouched,” said Verdi of his team’s defensive performance against Klabo. “She had her way and she just went every single time and got an offensive rebound and would go and score. All the hard work was done, shot goes up and we didn’t find a body.”

Overall, the Minutewomen shot 33.9 percent (19-56) from the field and 25 percent (4-16) from the three-point line.

Leidel pointed to this as to why UMass couldn’t put more points on the board.

“We played really hard and executed the way we wanted to,” she said. “It was just that on offense, the shots weren’t falling.”

For the Minutewomen, the story of the game was the lackluster first half that saw the score tied at 18 heading into the locker room after two quarters.

“I was happy going into halftime being tied up 18-18 because we probably played as bad as we could have to be tied at that point,” said Verdi. “We were thinking that we’d come back in the second half and do what we’re capable of doing. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our day.”

Philoxy was stunned by the way her team came out to begin the game.

“First half wasn’t our half,” said the Queens, New York native. “We came out like we hadn’t practiced in months, like we didn’t know what was going on. Second half was too much of a catch-up. I feel like our first half determines our second half. The score is still 0-0 once the second half starts. But our first half was terrible.”

She later elaborated on how her team looked on the court.

“First half we stopped playing,” she said. “It made it seem like our dog died or something. We were down, our attitude was terrible.”

Leidel seemed to have more of a reason for the first half struggles.

“I think everyone was anxious and we were just kind of like throwing up shots,” said Leidel. “We weren’t really getting the looks we wanted or taking our time. People were throwing up shots and obviously that’s going to throw everyone off-sync. I think it was just a domino effect after that.”

Verdi explained the message after such a bad half.

“Number one, we have to get a little more ball movement,” said the coach. “We talked about boxing out and rebounding. We felt that if we could get stops and defensive rebounds – we gave them 15 offensive rebounds – we could push and attack and run to score.”

The Minutewomen came out shooting much better in the third quarter, as they shot 57.1 percent (8-14) from the field and 50 percent (2-4) from three. The third quarter ended at 38-38.

North Dakota broke the game open in the fourth quarter, partially because UMass was without one of its best. Sophomore Bre Hampton-Bey found herself in foul trouble, as she fouled out with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter.

“That’s who she is,” said Verdi of Hampton-Bey’s fouls. “We go how Bre Hampton-Bey goes. I thought Destiny Philoxy did a good job at that position for us, but we need Hampton-Bey on the floor. There’s no question about it. She was handcuffed here today because of her foul trouble and that’s a piece where we talked about as a team: We’ve got to be a little bit smarter, because there are certain things you can’t do when you pick up fouls.”

Overall, UMass wasn’t happy with its performance, but realizes what it must do going forward.

“We could’ve won this game. It was a very winnable game,” said Leidel. “But we learned a lot from it and we have to take those lessons and push forward.”

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected]

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