UMass women’s basketball falls 61-46 to VCU

Minutewomen shot 29 percent from the field

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(Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian)

By Tim Sorota, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team suffered their second conference loss in a row on Wednesday, falling 61-46 to VCU. The loss puts the Minutewomen (14-5, 4-2 Atlantic 10) two games behind the first-place Rams (10-8, 5-0 A-10) in the conference standings.

The Minutewomen defending champion and preseason favorite Rams would be a challenge, and at least early on, UMass looked more than up for it, as they came flying out of the gates thanks to their defense and solid shooting.

They forced nine turnovers converting them into 12 points and led 18-9 after the first quarter. But from that point on, it was all VCU.

“In the first quarter we were doing a really good job of working together, making the extra passes, and finding the open person, and that was obviously causing them problems,” junior Sam Breen said. “Then they switched up and it kind of rattled a bit.”

After the opening frame, the Minutewomen averaged below 10 points a quarter, scoring just 28 points in the final 30 minutes. This included a five-point second quarter where they were 1-14 shooting from the field while surrendering 17 points to the Rams, relinquishing the lead heading into halftime.

The three-point halftime deficit was the closest UMass got the rest of the game.

“Once we stopped making shots in the second period and missed layups and came up empty, they were able to turn that defensive rebound into points,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “They did a great job of attacking down-hill, even though we knew we needed to contain dribble penetration, we did not do a great job of that. We allowed them to get to the rim and they made us pay for it every single time.”

VCU used their size as an advantage all game long. The UMass offense relies on driving into the key and either making a contested layup, getting fouled or kicking it to an open perimeter player for a 3-pointer. The Rams forced UMass to settle for a lot of jump shots since the driving lanes were clogged, thanks to their length and athleticism.

If a Minutewomen decided to take the ball all the way to the rack, a VCU player was almost always there with stout defense.

“They did a tremendous job,” Verdi said. “They did a tremendous job of getting into our bodies. They were physical with us down low.”

Despite this, UMass never stopped attacking. There were many possessions in the second and third quarter where a guard would drive the ball to the hoop, absorb some contact and not receive the foul call they were hoping for.

Throughout the season, UMass has been focusing on getting to the free throw line and have struggled to win games when its don’t consistently make it to the charity stripe. On Thursday, the Minutewomen only made 12 trips to the line, well below their season average of 19.

“It was tough,” Breen said. “Our guards were doing a really good job of attacking the hole. And with the physical game comes a lot of contact. I do think some calls here and there could have gone either way and they weren’t going our way and they weren’t going our way which we have to play through.”

While UMass never completely abandoned driving to the hoop, the lack of calls against both teams made the Minutewomen a bit more apprehensive about doing it, forcing them into settling for jump shots.

Shooting guard Destiney Philoxy believes the lack of fouls disrupted the offense.

“I felt like the refs were like ‘it’s just basketball so you either finish or you don’t’ and they did not call it, so next time I just have to go to the rim even stronger,” Philoxy said. “Certain plays were made for me to finish and I just did not finish.”

On the other end, the Minutewomen were solid defensively in the first half. But as the game went on and the offense continued struggling to put up points, the UMass defense started having lapses.

“Yes and no,” Breen said on if the offensive woes had an impact defensively. “I don’t think initially it did, but as possessions started coming up empty for us, that started getting to us a little bit. We started not playing like we usually do and that obviously really hurt us. And that started snowballing possession after possession.”

The fourth quarter saw the Rams explode for 21 points and pull away from the Minutewomen with ease.

UMass will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to take on George Washington.

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