Minutewomen show urgency in first win of the year

Hailey Leidel had 20 points

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Minutewomen show urgency in first win of the year

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s basketball team led for 39 minutes en route to a dominant 74-58 win over UMass Lowell Thursday night.

Senior captain Hailey Leidel had her best game of the season, dropping 20 points on the River Hawks on7-for-11 from the field and 6-of-9 from 3-point range. She struggled in the previous two losses to find any rhythm shooting the ball, so tonight was a welcomed sight for the 5-foot 11-inch guard and her team.

“She was extremely focused right from the onset,” coach Tory Verdi said. “I thought our guards did a really great job of attacking gaps and finding her, and she was stepping into her shot and knocking it down. I felt right at the beginning that she was going to play really well.”

As a team, UMass (1-2) had its best shooting performance of the season, particularly from distance. Heading into the contest, the Minutewomen were converting 3-pointers at a roughly 19 percent clip, but against UMass Lowell they shot 34.8 percent, right around their mark from last season.

Vashnie Perry also started turning her shooting slump around, going 2-for-3 from downtown.

The Minutewomen started the game like a team that needed to pick up its first win of the season, racing out to a 21-8 lead after the opening frame. 13 of those points came off turnovers, compared to none for UMass-Lowell.

“We played extremely hard,” Verdi said. “We were very determined and got off to a great start.”

The second quarter was more of the same: solid shooting and great defense. UMass outscored the River Hawks 17-7 to take a 38-15 lead into the half.

“I think everyone had a sense of urgency,” Verdi said. “Being 0-2, you know, is not fun, so our players understood that regardless of who we’re playing we need to win this game. And so, we got off to a real fast start and did a good job executing offensively, and we just knocked down shots.”

Despite a second half where the River Hawks actually outscored the Minutewomen, the first half dominance was enough to ride to victory. The closest UMass Lowell got was after Shamyjha Price converted her two free throws to cut the lead to 16 during the last minute of the fourth quarter.

With the victory, the Minutewomen win their installment of the 2018-19 Kennedy Cup, a trophy competed for annually by UMass and UMass Lowell athletic teams. UMass leads the River Hawks three wins to one, with a tie in women’s soccer.

The game also served as revenge, as UMass Lowell beat the Minutewomen last year on the Mullins Center floor. But the game meant far more than standing in the Kennedy Cup and revenge.

“Any big is a big win, especially being on the road. Obviously, this is a revenge game,” Verdi said. “We did lose to them last year at home, but again, it just gives us confidence that ‘Hey, we can go on the road and have success. We haven’t won a lot of roads games in the last four years so getting our first one under our belts. I thought we came together, played extremely hard, and executed on both sides of the ball.”

The Minutewomen will look to extend their win streak to two this Sunday against Hartford. Tip off is set for 2 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Tim Sorota can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @TimSorota.