UMass women’s basketball looks to build off strong holiday tournament

UMass went 2-1 in Brown University Turkey Tip-Off

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UMass women’s basketball looks to build off strong holiday tournament

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

By Javier Melo, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s basketball team will host North Dakota Wednesday in what will be a revenge game for the Minutewomen.

When UMass (5-2) squared off with the Fighting Hawks (1-3) a season ago, North Dakota dominated the game, coming away with a 30-point victory. After a hot start to the season, UMass coach Tory Verdi feels his team is much more prepared this year.

“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Verdi said. “We’re continuing to grow. I think we’re still trying to figure out some things.”

The Minutewomen are coming off an impressive performance in the Brown University Turkey Tip-Off that saw them win two of their three games, only losing to tournament winner Bucknell.

UMass will look to carry this momentum in their game against the Fighting Hawks. It will try to ride the hot hands of sophomore guard Bre Hampton-Bey and junior forward Hailey Leidel, who were named to the All-Tournament team.

“Hailey and Bre are kind of like our Batman and Robin,” Verdi said. “We need them to show up each and every single night and they have for us. They were really good the last couple of days and hopefully that will continue here tomorrow night.”

Leidel and Hampton-Bre helped carry UMass to two impressive victories over the weekend, each putting up double figures in scoring and displaying their versatility on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

“It’s important for us to have an impact,” said Leidel of her and Hampton-Bey. “We kind of know that we’re the two catalysts for the team. We know that if we go, the team is going to go as well, so it was good for both us to play well and to kind of start clicking. If we just carry that, I think we’ll be all set for tomorrow’s game.”

The matchup against North Dakota will certainly prove to be a difficult one for the Minutewomen. The team will have to find an answer for senior forward Lexi Klabo, who is entering the game averaging 18.5 points per game and had 23 points and 13 rebounds against the Minutewomen last year. Leidel and Hampton-Bey both struggled in their double-digit scoring outputs in that game, but will hope that a year of experience will pay off.

“We had a really tough team last year and I think we’re going to come out with the same energy,” Hampton-Bey said. “But this time we’re going to be a little better defensively and we just have to lock in on defense to try shut down their shooters. I think that’s one of the main goals of the defense tomorrow.”

A big theme for the team coming out of this weekend was how great the energy was for them — they felt pride and were positive about their strong play in their two victories. They hope that as a collective unit, they can advance and take down North Dakota.

“We feel really good about the matchup and the rest of the season overall,” Leidel said. “I think we learned a lot about ourselves this past week and we are coming off of two good wins so we do have momentum right now. We’re just excited to be back at home and ready to take care of business.”

Tipoff is set for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Javier Melo can be reached at [email protected].