Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass ends losing skid with 69-66 win over Duquesne

Strong offensive rebounding and a hot third quarter power the Minutewomen to victory

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UMass ends losing skid with 69-66 win over Duquesne

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

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Thursday night’s matchup against the Duquesne women’s basketball team was a gut-check for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team and they passed it.

The Minutewomen (12-11, 4-5 A-10) took down Duquesne (11-11, 5-4 A-10) in exciting fashion at the Mullins Center on Thursday and coach Tory Verdi couldn’t have been happier.

“I think it was a hell of a win for us,” said Verdi. “It’s the game we’ve been searching for. We’ve been so close. It’s been one or two possessions the last three games and we’re right there. We’ve preached it all along – we need to find a way to be consistent and I thought our kids out-toughed them. We out-toughed them for three periods.”

UMass was powered by a third quarter that saw them outscore Duquesne 29-9. Hailey Leidel’s seven points in the quarter paired with Vashnie Perry’s five helped the Minutewomen go from down eight to up 11 by the end of the period.

After the game, Perry was able to put her finger on what went right to cause such an outburst.

“I think one major thing we were able to do was stick together,” said the junior. “We feed off of each other’s energy so when we’re up, we’re all fired up and even when one’s down, we make a way and today we just made a way.”

And made a way they did. All of this came after a second quarter that saw them turn the ball over six times and get outscored 19-9.

“In the second period, our lack of offensive production affected who we were defensively,” said Verdi. “That allowed them to get momentum.”

Another spark for the Minutewomen was their rebounding. On the offensive side of the ball, they set a new season-high with 21 boards. Duquesne only had 10. In general, UMass outrebounded them 40-28.

“Well, it just tells you we’ve preached it,” said Verdi on the offensive rebounding performance. “We’ve talked about it. It was just our will to win. We needed this and it’s one of those things we talk about all the time. We have to figure a way to be desperate and do everything that we can within the 40 minutes and we have to work every single possession.

“I thought our players did an unbelievable job. Hailey Leidel was aggressive on the offensive rebound. She had six. Bre Hampton-Bey was aggressive – she had four. Your guards right there are giving you 10 offensive rebounds and all those second opportunity points helps us down the stretch.”

Leidel, who earned her fifth career double-double in the game (16 points, 10 rebounds), was impressed with her team’s rebounding.

“Just in general that’s a big point of us in games: the more aggressive you are attacking the glass, the more pressure it puts on them to box out and play defense longer,” said the team’s leading scorer. “It wears them down. For this game too and for all games that’s always the emphasis for our team.”

Along with Leidel’s team-high 16 points, Perry and senior Jessica George both finished with 11.

For Duquesne, Chassidy Omogrosso was their leading scorer with 20 points, shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 6-of-13 from three-point range. She helped lead Duquesne’s fourth quarter comeback, as they outscored the Minutewomen 23-15.

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough. On the final play, down three points, Duquesne forward Kadri-Ann Lass took the ball to the basket off the in-bound instead of kicking it out for a chance to tie the game.

UMass entered the game with a three-game losing streak and some inconsistency. But after the win, Verdi couldn’t have been prouder of his girls.

“It’s huge,” said Verdi of the win. “[Duquesne] is picked to if not win it, finish second. For us to do what we did tonight shows you. Again, I’ve been preaching all year long – we’ve had some really good wins. We beat Marist at Marist. That’s a really good win. The way we played down at Davidson against them and then how we beat Saint Louis.

“If we play the way we’re capable of playing, I feel like we’re one of those teams that could be right there down the stretch and have some postseason play and success. But this hopefully gives us some confidence. Our biggest game of the year is here on Sunday.”

The Minutewomen welcome Rhode Island to the Mullins Center on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tip-off.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected]

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