Too little, too late: UMass falls to La Salle 69-63

The Minutewomen have now lost three games in a row

By Lulu Kesin, Collegian Staff

Despite coming back from a rough first quarter, La Salle handed the Massachusetts women’s basketball team its third-straight loss on Sunday afternoon. UMass (10-5, 6-4 Atlantic 10) showed some fight but a little too late, falling 69-63 to the Explorers.

The Minutewomen struggled to convert from tipoff, whereas La Salle (9-8, 5-5 A10) came out knocking down 3-pointers from the start.

In the first few minutes of the game, UMass already had five turnovers and as the game went on, the stat increased. Entering Sunday’s contest, the Minutewomen averaged 15 turnovers per game. By halftime, they had 13.

The turnovers prevented any flow on offense but even when the ball remained in UMass’ hand, uncharacteristic mistakes were made. The Minutewomen scored just eight points in the first quarter.

“We were hesitant, instead of looking and seeing what the defense was doing,” said head coach Tory Verdi. “We didn’t take advantage of that… we were just tentative; we didn’t play to our strengths and we didn’t play off instincts either.”

In the second quarter, a solid 3-point play for Sam Breen from Sydney Taylor gave UMass some life on offense. Shortly after, when Destiney Philoxy raised her hand to celebrate a corner 3-pointer connecting, momentum shifted for the Minutewomen.

To close out the first half, UMass went on a 12-3 run, shutting down a La Salle team who hit shots left and right most of the first quarter. The Minutewomen still had a lot to fix in the locker room.

“One thing was we have to value the ball, take care of the ball,” Verdi said of his team’s goals at halftime. “The other was we can’t be tentative. Yes, we want to run this play… but if the defense takes away that entry pass, whether the wing or high post, you can’t force the issue. You have to go make a play.”

As soon as things started to head in a positive direction for UMass at the start of the second half, fouls resulted in a lot of stoppages. Shortly into the third quarter, the Minutewomen were already in the bonus, giving La Salle easy points from the free throw line.

Taylor, who has struggled from behind the 3-point line the past few games, got one to connect with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter. But the celebration of Taylor’s 3-pointer did not last long.

The empty Mullins Center got even quieter when Philoxy hit the floor late in the third quarter, taking a while to get up. The minimal applause from whomever was inside the arena echoed as she walked into the locker room.

“We were definitely trying to win for everyone but especially her because it’s never good to see someone especially with that much impact on our team go down,” Breen said. “She’s good, she’s tough, she’s fine and she still cheered us on the bench, and I think that was huge and gave us that much more motivation.”

After losing Philoxy, Taylor fouled out with just under six minutes remaining, creating more obstacles for the Minutewomen to overcome late in the game.

Even though UMass never stopped fighting, the large first quarter deficit hurt them in the end.

“I was proud of our effort down the stretch, but we gave La Salle confidence right from the jump,” Verdi said. “We didn’t defend their motion offense to where they got five threes and put up some points right away and started to feel good about themselves.”

After failing to play together against Saint Joseph’s on Friday, the Minutewomen were determined to not make that same mistake twice.

“Obviously we didn’t get the outcome we wanted but I think we played hard and we played together which is something we really reiterated after last game,” Breen said. “We need to hit more shots, finish around the rim but other than that I think we played together.”

This loss gives UMass a lot of time to work on what needs to be fixed, and in Verdi’s opinion, regaining confidence in themselves is the most important thing.

When confidence is as clear as it was to start the season, the Minutewomen can begin to regain the offensive rhythm they failed to have these last three games.

“I thought that we worked hard, and we just didn’t get the results that we wanted but we have to do a better job of scoring the basketball,” Verdi said.

UMass stays home for the third game in a row, when George Washington travels to western Massachusetts on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Lulukesin.