Minutewomen pull away in third quarter for fourth straight win

Leidel moves into fourth on all-time scoring list

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Minutewomen pull away in third quarter for fourth straight win

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Thomas Haines, Sports Editor

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After a back-and-forth start, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team pulled away for a 58-45 win over Boston University on Wednesday, its fourth victory in a row and seventh of the last eight.

“It was a tale of two halves,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “Up until halftime I didn’t think we played really well.”

After BU (3-5) tied the game two minutes into the third quarter, the Minutewomen (7-3) broke out for a 10-0 run that put them ahead for good. Hailey Leidel started the run with two free throws after three consecutive missed baskets and offensive rebounds, and Vashnie Perry tacked on four points of her own to build an insurmountable lead.

Although it held a four-point lead at the half, UMass bore down on defense in the second half, holding the Terriers to 18 points after halftime to stretch the lead into a 13-point margin of victory.

“We were out-toughed in the first half, but we came together and played really well, and I’m proud of this team,” Verdi said. “I think that between Hailey Leidel’s point production and Bre Hampton-Bey’s energy, as well as Vashnie Perry’s ability to attack the basket, that was what propelled us in the second half.”

The Minutewomen benefited from poor shooting from BU in that crucial stretch – just two makes from the field in the third quarter – and pulled down eight offensive rebounds to keep the momentum on the other end.

“We got back to doing what we do and matched their physicality,” Verdi said. “Angelique [Ngalakulondi] played more, she got more minutes in the second half, and her length and her athleticism definitely hurt them, but overall we just started playing much harder on defense and we got the stops.”

UMass got the stops it needed most of the game, as the Terriers couldn’t get shots to fall. When all was said and done, BU made 26.5 percent from the field on 49 shots and just 18.8 percent of its threes. The poor shooting cost the Terriers a chance to pull ahead in the first half, before the UMass defense shut the door.

“Some of it was they missed shots, some of it was, they weren’t getting as open in the second half,” Verdi said. “I thought our guards did a great job on the perimeter.”

On offense it was once again Leidel who led the way. The senior captain was unstoppable for the Minutewomen, finishing with 25 points – nearly half of UMass’ total – on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 from behind the arc.

Wednesday’s effort was Leidel’s fourth game scoring 20-plus points this season, and it vaulted her into fourth on the UMass all-time scoring list.

“She got herself open a lot,” Verdi said. “When sets broke down, we were able to find her and she knocked down shots. She did a great job flooding the gaps and got herself some open looks.”

With the win, UMass moves to 7-3 and its best start since 2006, when the Minutewomen started 8-2. UMass brings its four-game winning streak home on Sunday as Siena comes to the Mullins Center.

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