Slow start, struggles after halftime prove costly as Minutewomen fall to St. John’s

23 transition points make the difference for St. John’s

By Thomas Haines, Sports Editor

A 12-2 run from St. John’s after halftime put the Massachusetts women’s basketball team away, as the Minutewomen fell behind early and never recovered in a 82-71 loss.

Right after the half, Qadashah Hoppie hit two open threes as St. John’s (4-1) stretched a seven-point halftime lead to a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter. The Red Storm hit 60 percent of its shots in the third quarter and 52.7 percent for the game in dissecting UMass (3-3), which couldn’t recover down the stretch.

“It was a fast-paced game, really good basketball team,” coach Tory Verdi said. “Again, we’re starting a really young frontcourt. We didn’t do a great job of putting the ball outside and scoring, but I thought overall our effort was really good.”

UMass came out ice cold, shooting just 28 percent in the first quarter with an 0-for-9 stretch that helped St. John’s put together a 13-0 run in the first quarter. The Red Storm took advantage of multiple open looks from deep early on and never looked back, as the Minutewomen only led for 21 seconds.

Two short runs brought UMass within four late in the second quarter, but the Minutewomen never took back the lead.

“I was really happy with how we played during parts of the game, but I did think, for whatever reason, our starts in the first period and the third period weren’t what we needed,” Verdi said. “We dug ourselves a hole and then we climbed out of it, but I thought we looked really good at times. But we can’t be inconsistent.”

But the Red Storm was less clinical on defense. Foul trouble limited St. John’s Emma Nolan to 23 minutes after her two threes staked the Red Storm to the early lead, while Alissa Alston got hit with a technical foul in the fourth quarter. UMass took 21 shots from the line, hitting 14, and made up for the first quarter with strong shooting the rest of the way, finishing 40.7 percent from the field.

In critical moments, however, the speed of St. John’s was too much for the Minutewomen, who gave up 11 fast break points in the first quarter and eight in the third as St. John’s opened up big leads. The second time, trailing by 14 after the third quarter, UMass was unable to make a final run.

“Played a really fast team, that’s a start,” Verdi said. “Secondly, I think we broke down defensively, we weren’t systematic, and didn’t do a great job containing zone penetration and staying in front of the ball. Nobody we played thus far was that fast and that athletic, so games like this will only make us better and prepare us for the A-10.”

It was a quiet night for leading scorer Hailey Leidel, who started 0-for-6 and finished 3-for-13 for nine points. Second-leading scorer Destiney Philoxy scored 14 points but finished just 4-for-13 from the field and 0-for-3 from deep in her return to hometown Queens.

“Games like this, got to make shots. [Misses] hurt you,” Verdi said. “Open looks, we’ve got to be able to knock them down, and obviously, when you are hitting those, gives you a little bit more confidence. Doesn’t mean we weren’t playing hard, because we were playing really, really hard. The ball wasn’t going through the net the way it did the last three games for us.”

The loss brought UMass’ three-game winning streak to an end and dropped the Minutewomen back to .500. UMass will try to bounce back Friday against Vermont.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.