Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Paige McCormick shines in her first start of the season

The sophomore forward scored 13 points on the night

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Paige McCormick shines in her first start of the season

By Dan McGee, Collegian Staff

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Paige McCormick’s first appearance of the season in the starting lineup helped the Massachusetts women’s basketball team to a 71-59 win over Incarnate Word on Friday, as the sophomore contributed 13 points in 20 minutes of play to defeat the Cardinals.

“I thought she was aggressive,” said coach Tory Verdi. “Offensively she knocked down a couple of threes for us and she attacked the boards and attacked the rim and that’s what we need from her. Exactly what she did today is what she did all last year, and we need that from her.”

McCormick’s first start of the season for UMass (6-4) came after returning from injury and playing off the bench to start the season. For McCormick, it’s a relief to be back out on the floor.

“I proved to myself out there that I can come back and be my old self,” said McCormick. “This summer was really big for me, so I was really anxious to get going.”

The 13-point effort marks McCormick’s highest total so far this season, and she did it efficiently too. The second-year forward shot a perfect 4-4 from the field, including two three-point field goals. She also shot a near-perfect 3-4 from the free throw line and added four rebounds and a pair of steals.

“[Assistant] Coach Leflar’s been on me about getting in the gym with him so before practices I’ll get in a workout with him,” said McCormick. “I think that really helped me today just getting my shot back, because I was out for a month, so that can do a lot to your shot.”

McCormick’s best run of the game came in the third quarter. With Incarnate Word trying to get back into the game after halftime, McCormick was able to score seven of her 13 points in less than two minutes to keep pace with the Cardinals scoring attack.

“She played really well, we’ve kind of been waiting for this,” said captain Hailey Leidel. “Obviously, she was out with an injury so it’s always a slow process coming back, but we knew she’d be back into it in no time so we’re just happy she’s just back to her old self.”

Though Leidel tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double of her own, the junior forward definitely felt a sense of relief with McCormick back in the starting lineup.

“It’s always nice when another scorer comes in,” said Leidel. “Obviously, I want to look to score all the time and stuff, but it’s nice having another shooter on the floor. It stretches the defense out and as a team it just brings up the morale of not having another person out.”

With McCormick’s return to the starting lineup, freshman guard Asia McCoy moved to the bench. However, Verdi doesn’t see a starting lineup change as an issue for the Minutewomen.

“Either one of those guys can start for us,” said Verdi. “We’ll see who starts next game, I’m not too concerned about that. But both those guys are going to play big minutes for us.”

“Whoever comes to practice and works hard will get the nod,” added Verdi. “And [McCormick] got the nod.”

Whether it be in a starting role or coming off the bench, McCormick isn’t too worried about playing time down the stretch.

“I feel pretty good I guess,” said McCormick. “I mean regardless if I’m starting or if I’m coming off the bench, I still got to bring high intensity and high energy, so [starting] was nice but it’s still the same basically.”

“As long as I just keep working hard,” she added. “Keep the intensity. Every day in practice, it’s a new day, and we’re working toward a starting spot, every single one of us. So, I still got to work hard.”

The Minutewomen’s next game comes on Wednesday as they take on Boston University.

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

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