UMass breaks losing streak with impressive performance against Richmond

Breen scores 26 points

Mehroz+Kapadia

Mehroz Kapadia

By Richard Rodgers, Collegian Correspondent

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team was firing on all cylinders on Wednesday afternoon as they defeated the Richmond Spiders by a score of 64-50. Despite a turbulent first few minutes, the Minutewomen picked things up quickly and ended up with a significant advantage in nearly every statistical category.

“We turned the ball over on four of the first five possessions and you can’t do that,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “I do not know if it was because this was our first game back at Mullins Center in a while. We needed to value the ball more and we talked about that during the first timeout. We also needed to box out and rebound and we talked about that. I thought we did a better job of that after the first five minutes of the first period.”

For UMass (15-6, 5-3 A10) it was their ability to shoot the ball from 3-point range that made the biggest difference as they pulled away. The Spiders (9-12, 2-5 A10) played tight defense inside the arc in the first half, but the consistency from deep for UMass opened up their offensive attack.

“For the last couple of games, everybody’s been wanting to shoot better,” senior forward Hailey Leidel said. “We got in the gym a lot. People were shooting on the gun after practice. I think everyone just relaxed and put in the extra work, and it paid off today.”

The standout performance for the Minutewomen undoubtedly came from junior forward Sam Breen who had 26 points, eight rebounds and two steals shooting 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the arc. Her ability to dominate the paint while also making it rain from outside made for a strong scoring performance.

“The last couple of games I’d been struggling a little bit,” Breen said. “Getting in extra shots with coach before and after practice has definitely helped me a lot especially in the post.”

While Leidel didn’t have one of her better games of the season, she reached an incredible milestone becoming the first player in program history to record 1,700 points,  600 rebounds and 200 assists. Her place in UMass basketball history already seems to be cemented.

“It’s surreal,” Leidel said. “Obviously, coming in as a freshman it isn’t a goal that you set or anything like that. It’s just cool and I’m happy to do it with this group. My senior year’s going really well. It’s been a really nice experience that I’ll never forget.”

On the defensive side, one of the biggest keys for UMass was their ability to contain Richmond’s star player forward Jaide Hinds-Clarke who has been a force on both ends of the floor this season. Hinds-Clarke got off to a hot start but only finished with eight points, four rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes.

Holding Richmond to 37.3 percent from the field on the game was also an eye-opening defensive feat for the entire team. If they can keep the same level of defense afloat and get consistency from players like Breen and senior guard Vashnie Perry, there could be room for the team’s play to continue to improve.

UMass played a relatively complete four quarters of basketball on Wednesday afternoon. Now, they will need to build some momentum and find long-term consistency on offense if they hope to navigate the conference schedule with success.

The Minutewomen will look to build on Wednesday’s victory when they travel to Davidson for a 1 p.m. matchup.

Richard Rodgers can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RichardDRodgers