Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Consistency is key for UMass women’s basketball heading into Atlantic 10 tournament

The Minutewomen haven’t won three games in a row all season

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Consistency is key for UMass women’s basketball heading into Atlantic 10 tournament

Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Photo by Judith Gibson-Okunieff

By Dan McGee, Collegian Staff

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Following an up-and-down regular season, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is heading to George Mason to play in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament on Tuesday.

Unable to put together a three-game win streak all season, UMass (15-15, 7-9 Atlantic 10) has been on a search for consistent play all year. After closing out their season with a pair of wins over Rhode Island and Richmond, the Minutewomen will have the opportunity against George Mason (16-13, 8-8 A-10) to put together that first three-game win streak, and it comes at the most critical time of the season.

“Since it’s such high stakes, I feel like everyone is just going to go out there and give it their all,” said Hailey Leidel. “Hopefully this can be our first three-game winning streak of the season. I think because of the stakes and knowing it’s tournament time, everyone is just going to be more focused and keened in on that consistency.”

While the Minutewomen have shown promise at times this season, they’ve faltered at others, their record sitting at .500.

The Minutewomen have been able to compete with conference front runners Fordham and Virginia Commonwealth, losing by just four points to the latter. UMass also beat third-place Duquesne earlier in the season.

However, the Minutewomen have often fallen victim to slow starts on the offensive end, often slumping their way through the first quarter of games. In back-to-back losses to Saint Joseph’s and Davidson earlier this season, the Minutewomen were outscored 13-6 and 14-5 respectively in the first quarter, putting themselves behind almost as soon as the games began.

“We just can’t get in our heads at the start of the game,” said Bre Hampton-Bey. “Even if we’re down two or three points, we can’t allow ourselves to get lost in that first quarter.”

Moving forward, the Minutewomen believe the A-10 tournament presents an opportunity for a fresh start to their season.

“I think this is our time where we really focus,” said Hampton-Bey. “If we keep being consistent and coming into practice with a lot of energy it just carries over into the game. We’re starting to get that consistency that [coach Tory Verdi] has been wanting the whole year.

“I think it’s a new season now and we just have a new focus for each game. We have nothing to lose, so I think this is our time.”

Most recently, the Minutewomen have been able to find a consistent stride on the offensive end. UMass is getting hot at the right time, after putting up 18 points in the first quarter in each of its end-of-season victories over URI and Richmond.

“We’re doing some good things the last couple of games,” said Verdi. “We just have to continue that at this point of the year. We just have to figure out a way to continue to be tough and rely on one another and keep playing hard.”

The Minutewomen have worked on being consistent on the offensive end, focusing on their slow starts as a team, and know they must focus together as a group to continue the success they enjoyed in their final two regular season games.

“Even if we get off to a slow start, making sure everyone’s focused and focusing on defense still and not letting them get hot is key,” said Leidel. “We just have to keep running the offense the way we normally run it, don’t get pressured or overwhelmed or anything.”

Some of the reasoning behind the Minutewomen’s ability to put things together in their final two regular season games can be attributed to how much they’ve matured over the season. Now 30 games in, UMass is showing growth as a team and a program, propelling the Minutewomen to their highest regular season win total since 2006-2007.

“We’re just more together,” said Leidel. “We’re all clicking more on offense and defense. We matured a lot in terms of communicating and knowing what to look for with certain plays and matchups and stuff like that. Even though it hasn’t been a ton of games, I think we’ve grown a lot over that time.”

With the offense clicking at the right time and the momentum on its side, Verdi likes the position the team is in heading into George Mason on Tuesday.

“When we play hard, we put ourselves in a position to be successful,” Verdi said. “I do like where we are mentally, I think our players are ready for this and I expect to come out with a ton of energy and want-to.”

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

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