Minutewomen looking for a turnaround on offense

UMass has shot 30 percent over the last three games


Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Thomas Haines, Sports Editor

Coming off three straight losses, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is looking for a spark.

UMass (14-6, 4-3 Atlantic 10) has stalled out on offense, scoring under 50 points the past two games.  Transfer Sam Breen, who propelled the Minutewomen when she became eligible, has slowed down over the course of the losing streak, while senior Hailey Leidel has been responsible for 32 percent of UMass’ scoring over the last two games.

As Richmond (9-11, 2-4 A-10) comes to town Wednesday, the Minutewomen are looking to turn things around.

“We need multiple scorers,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “When you look at how we were winning, everyone was contributing, often having four players in double figures. We need point production from Vashnie Perry, we need point production from Paige McCormick. I could go all the way around. All those guys need to average and score 8-12 points for us. When they’re only scoring two to four points per game, we need to find those points from somewhere else, and we’re not right now.”

The decline in production from UMass’ sharpshooters has come with a general decline in shooting. The Minutewomen have been unable to buy a bucket, shooting just 30.3 percent from the field over the last three games, which has proven particularly costly in one-possession games against Rhode Island and George Washington.

On the flip side, the poor shooting also provides a very easy solution: once the shots start falling, the offense will return.

“I don’t think anything is missing, I just think we need to hit shots,” Perry said. “There’s nothing to stress about, we’re going to get it this next game.”

UMass has particularly struggled down low, both from the post players and guards driving to the basket. As the Minutewomen simultaneously struggle on the boards, Leidel pointed to a need for more aggressive play inside on both ends of the court.

“I think our posts just need to be more aggressive, we know they can score, but I think the other post players were way more aggressive and that kind of took us out of the game,” Leidel said. “On offense they were going at us, and on defense they were trying to block everything, get in passing lanes to make everything tough. So I think they just have to be more confident and be more aggressive and go get it, because we know they can.”

The struggles at the basket have hurt all the more as UMass has found its stride on the other end. After holding GW to 50 points on Sunday, the Minutewomen are allowing just under 59 points per game, and giving up just 37.4 percent shooting from the floor.

“We’ve got to be able to knock down shots,” Verdi said. “We’re not shooting the ball particularly well the past couple games. We’re holding teams, we held GW to 50, and we’re normally scoring 70. Had our opportunities, had a ton of layups that we came away and we were short on, and we’ve got to knock those down.”

The three-game losing streak is the longest of the year for UMass, which won a program-record 11 games in a row and hadn’t lost two in a row since the first games of the season. The rocky start, combined with several down years as a program, give the Minutewomen a strong foundation to overcome the present struggles.

“Obviously for the upperclassmen we haven’t won a lot of games in the past,” Leidel said. “So it’s kind of weird being on the flip side of that where we’re trying to guide people back to winning, because normally we’re trying to fight for every game, so we’re just trying to stick together. On the court we’re trying to play more connected. We’re just trying to know what looks to have in the offense, make sure we utilize everyone’s strengths and all that.”

UMass will tip off against Richmond at noon on Wednesday.

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