UMass women’s basketball hangs on for two-point win against UNH

Minutewomen led by 15 halfway through the fourth quarter

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UMass women’s basketball hangs on for two-point win against UNH

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

Nina Walat

By Anthony Syrek, Collegian Staff

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Staked to a 15-point lead with less than five minutes left, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team seemed to be in control, but New Hampshire nearly wiped out the lead and the Minutewomen barely escaped with a 67-65 win.

The Minutewomen (5-3) committed 22 turnovers overall, five of them coming the fourth quarter, and UNH (2-6) capitalized on UMass’s failure to set up on defense. It took late-game free throws to stave off the Wildcats, the last by Hailey Leidel after missing her first to put UMass up two.

“We gave New Hampshire confidence, and they started making shots,” coach Tory Verdi said. “We broke down offensively, we broke down defensively. We did not play well.”

The Minutewomen struggled to find their identity on offense, as they shot 24-of-60 from the field and 6-of-26 from 3-point range. Leidel contributed four of those makes from beyond the arc, finishing 6-of-13 overall for 21 points.

“I thought Hailey Leidel did a really nice job for us in leading us here tonight, with her point production, but also her leadership on the floor,” Verdi said.

Verdi said UMass tries to get Leidel, playing in her 100th game at UMass, the ball in late-game situations, because she is the person on whom the Minutewomen rely to make crucial free throws down the stretch.

UMass worked well inside early, especially at the end of the second quarter, when Destiney Philoxy drove in the paint and dished it to Maeve Donnelly for some easy buckets. The offense went back to the perimeter game after halftime, shooting 10 and only cashing in one during the second half.

“[UNH] ran a tandem 3-2 zone and we struggled to score on the interior,” Verdi said. “I thought Destiney Philoxy started to do a really good job in the first half of attacking the gaps and drawing over people and then lobbing the ball to Maeve and she would score around the rim, but we stopped for whatever reason.”

Donnelly not only made her presence felt on the defensive side of the ball – recording three blocks in the first half, four for the whole game – but her offensive game came out as well. She shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor before halftime and 6-of-6 for the game, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

“Everyone is just pushing me with you got to finish, you got to be strong,” Donnelly said. “It’s because in previous games I kind of struggled with just because of the physicality, the different level down low. Coming from high school has been crazy, like that change.”

Maeve said that she is trying to work on the inside game with Philoxy and they always talk about playing off each other.

“Obviously, Destiney is really good at getting downhill and getting the bucket, but teams notice that,” Donnelly said. “Now when teams come over, she sees me and she gives me the assist.”

The Minutewomen will try to build their winning streak to three when they play Holy Cross at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mullins Center.

Anthony Syrek can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ASyrek.