UMass women’s basketball looking for first win of the season against UMass Lowell

Minutewomen travel to Lowell on Thursday for battle of 0-2 teams

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UMass women’s basketball looking for first win of the season against UMass Lowell

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

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The Massachusetts women’s basketball team hits the road on Thursday to take on UMass Lowell. The Minutewomen and River Hawks both enter the contest with identical 0-2 records.

After dropping last Tuesday’s home opener to Merrimack and Saturday’s tilt to Providence, Thursday’s matchup is an important one for UMass to get on the right track after a winless start to the season.

“It’s huge, it’s the biggest game of the year,” coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m sure you’ll be hearing me say that for every game, but it is. Both teams are 0-2 and we’re both dying for a win. You’re gonna have two teams that are going to work extremely hard.”

So far this year, UMass has been woeful from beyond the arc, shooting 19 percent from 3-point range compared to 48 percent for their opponents. That stat was enough to sink them against Merrimack and Providence but if those trends continue, Verdi knows his team has other ways to win.

He expects those shots to eventually start falling, but pointed out that the offense goes far beyond shooting the ball from distance.

“We have to do all the other things,” Verdi said. “We have to get to the free throw line, get some points there. We’ve got to be able to score underneath the basket and get second opportunity points there with offensive rebounds. If we are able to do that with our defense creating offense for us and getting some turnovers, we’ll be able to get some fast break points.”

UML enters Thursday’s contest having fallen to Boston College and Colgate on the young season. Preparing for Lowell’s defense may be a bit of a problem as Verdi expects a bunch of different looks and the Minutewomen need to be prepared for anything.

“We expect Lowell to throw every defense imaginable out at us,” he said. “We’re going to see everything from a 2-3, we’re going to see a 2-2-1 back to a 2-3 to a 1-3-1. We’re going to see a buzz defense, we’ll see man. We’re going to see a diamond and one. They have every defensive arsenal that is known to man. We have to be ready for it.”

While no one has been great on the offensive end, senior captain Hailey Leidel is particularly looking for a bounce back game. After averaging high offensive numbers in her previous three seasons, Leidel is averaging just nine points with her season high of 11 coming into Saturday’s loss where she shot 2-of-11 from deep.

Freshman center Maeve Donnelly is looking for her play to continue trending upward. After struggling in her first collegiate game, she looked much more comfortable against Providence, recording 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 3-of-4 from the line along with seven rebounds.

Last Saturday also marked the first time Donnelly appeared on the floor at the same time with another freshman big, Angelique Ngalakulondi. When sharing the court, the two provide a formidable duo which makes penetrating the key and getting any offensive rebounds extremely difficult for opponents.

Despite the slow start to the season, Verdi knows his team is capable of having success, and the Minutewomen are trying to start Thursday.

“We talked about being 0-2 and that is obviously not the start we wanted but I think we’re in a good place,” Verdi said. “This team will win, and we’ll figure that part out as long as we continue to work, we will get there.”

Tip off between UMass and the River Hawks is scheduled for 7:00 pm at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.

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