The Minutewomen were uncharacteristically careless with the ball in close loss to La Salle

UMass loses third game in a row due to carelessness with the ball

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team, on the heels of a season high two-game losing streak, began its afternoon against La Salle with two errant passes – one due to poor aim and the other that could be chalked up to miscommunication. Both resulted in turnovers and were followed by two steals by the Explorers on entry passes soon after. Those four giveaways in the first three minutes of action told the story of how UMass (10-5, 6-4 Atlantic 10) was unable to take care of the ball in a game that was certainly winnable.

“I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus… I don’t understand it,” Verdi said of his team’s poor passing early on. “Those passes that we made that led to turnovers shouldn’t have gone there to begin with, and that’s why [they were] turnovers because they were unexpected passes.”

Those four turnovers doubled by the end of the quarter, and the Minutewomen gave the ball away 19 times overall – the second-most during a game thus far. Aside from the early errors, La Salle (9-8, 5-5 A-10) was consistently disrupting the UMass passing lanes and made it especially difficult for the team to get the ball down low.

“They definitely flustered us,” Breen said of La Salle’s pestering defense. “We were definitely struggling to get wing-entry passes and guard-to-post passes… they did a great job denying those entry passes, and it made it hard [for us] to run our stuff.”

This difficulty getting the ball down low disjointed the Minutewomen’s flow to their offensive game, as their attack is centered around ball movement and finding the open player. Much like Friday’s game against Saint Joseph’s, the 3-point shooting was the main casualty, as UMass made less than 20 percent of its attempts from deep.

“At times, we’re going off of that path [of playing together as a team] and trying to do things ourselves, and that’s where we’re running into a brick wall and turning the ball over and doing things that are uncharacteristic,” Verdi said. “We gotta figure out how to knock down shots and get our confidence back.”

The only way the Minutewomen were able to compensate for their lack of shot-making and effective passing Sunday was on the offensive boards. They outrebounded the Explorers 46-28 and finished with a season-high 20 offensive rebounds that resulted in 23 second-chance points.

“There were a lot of missed shots that came with a lot of offensive rebounds, and I think Maddie Sims and Makennah White did an incredible job, and our guards even, crashing [the offensive glass],” Breen said. “We’re going to continue to do that, and hopefully we can finish those second-chance [opportunities] instead of getting the offensive board and maybe missing again.”

While the team would have liked to have been more careful with the ball and convert more of their opportunities, the fact that they were able to stay in the game by adjusting their strategy to take advantage of their missed shots speaks to this team’s ability to adapt on the fly. Those adjustments, however, needed to happen sooner if they wanted to come out on top.

“It took us a while to figure out [La Salle’s defense], but once we figured it out and settled down a little bit, we were fine,” Breen said. “It just can’t take that long in the future.”

Now on a three-game losing streak, the Minutewomen will look to return to form offensively on Friday against George Washington. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. in Amherst.

Freeman Alfano can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @freemanalfano.