Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Breaking down UMass versus Columbia in 2021 and 2022

A comparison of the good and bad of Minutewomen vs Lions one year later
Kayla Wong/ Daily Collegian (2022)

Abbey Hsu was not the only difference. The star-studded afternoon Hsu displayed in Amherst, Mass. on Saturday Dec. 10 was an unstoppable factor to Columbia’s (9-2) win, but not the only reason the Lions came out on top. The Massachusetts women’s basketball team came off a Dec. 3 loss to Missouri looking to rebound, but instead grabbed its first loss at home this season, and first since January 2022.

Before tip-off, UMass (8-3) was in a position its been in before. Last year, following the loss to Boston College, the Minutewomen had a Saturday morning match up to regroup, get things back in order and focus on the little things to put things back in a positive direction.

The Minutewomen were set up to do that once again, just on home court but instead, for a variety of reasons, it was a step in the opposite direction.

A hot start and consistent effort

On Dec. 11, 2021, out of the gate, Sam Breen lit up New York City and by the final buzzer, five of her teammates dropped double-digit performances as well. Head coach Tory Verdi wanted to pound the paint inside last year, kicking out to the 3-point line only if the first initial post option wasn’t there. The Minutewomen excelled, outscoring the Lions 14-4 in the pain for the first 10 minutes.

“We were clicking on all cylinders … we executed the game plan,” Verdi said after the Dec. 11 win.

A fiery offensive display didn’t stop in the first but rather remained until the fourth, even when the Lions fought back. On Saturday, the Minutewomen put up 16 first quarter points but last year, had 31. Breen had two points in the first quarter on Saturday, with minimal touches, as UMass scored eight total points inside in the first frame.

“Energy was a big focus in practice [this week],” Breen said on Saturday. “We had a lot of energy this entire week … not necessarily sure why it didn’t carry over as much in the game, there were points today where we had a lot energy but it wasn’t as consistent as it usually is or as we wanted it to be.”

The Minutewomen took three 3-point attempts in the opening quarter, with just one of them sinking. Columbia scored zero points in the paint to start, hitting 60 percent from behind the arc, hitting 7 of 18 field goals compared to UMass’ 5 for 9. Last year, to add to the 14 points in the paint early, the Minutewomen shot 3-for-7 early on from 3-point territory.

“That is what disappointed me most, is that they wanted it more,” Verdi said of Saturday. “They had the same players that we played a year ago and we beat them at their place. For them to come back and have this type of response, is kind of disheartening.”

Whereas following the win last year, true UMass basketball was on display in large part to the want to and desire that came following the loss to BC. “Our effort [Dec 11] was absolutely outstanding, collectively. We were connected on the court, our want to and just togetherness was something that I haven’t seen in a while.”


UMass prides itself on outrebounding teams, with notable statistics defending the Minutewomen’s game on the glass coming from the Nov. 10 game at Tennessee, when they outrebounded the country’s second-best team in that category.

Last year, in the commanding win on the road against Columbia, Angelique Ngalakulondi unleashed a season high record of 14 rebounds, 11 of them on the offensive end.

Following the game, Verdi was clear to state Ngalakunlondi’s impact on the game as he said “There’s a reason why we had the lead of 20 at halftime … because [Ngalakulondi] was cleaning up the boards.”

Breen picked up a quiet 12 boards on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the team wide lack of fight on the glass. The Lions out rebounded UMass 40-36 on Saturday. UMass’ post players outside of Breen combined for just five whereas in the win, Breen, Ngalakulondi and Makennah White had 23, to go with their 46 total, 13 more than the Lions had.

“We gave up multiple offensive rebounds to kick out 3-pointers, they had layups in transition which they missed, and we didn’t run back … they got their own rebound and a put back. That part is frustrating,” Verdi said of his team’s rebounding performance.

Abbey Hsu

Hsu’s 17 first quarter points, 9-for-11 from 3-point territory to go with her career high 34 points was an obvious factor. But last year, Hsu had a notable five three pointers of her own, which became the fuel to Columbia’s third quarter comeback that the Minutewomen maturely held off.

The then sophomore sat in foul trouble early, missing a few of her first triples before starting the third quarter red hot. Three of her five total 3-pointers game less than two minutes apart.

Verdi said following the game that “we knew at some point in time [Hsu] was going to get it going and they did. I just thought that we answered when we needed to.”

On Saturday, the UMass defense had absolutely no answer. She scored on multiple levels beyond her near perfect 3-point shooting, taking one dribble pull ups and capitalizing on the fact the Minutewomen switched to applying tight on ball pressure which resulted in poor rotations and an open Hsu.

Schedule and timing

 Just like last year, the mid-December game comes with a chance to regroup, as finals caused academic stress last year the same way they did Saturday. Verdi noted the intense environment from a student aspect but was quick to note it was no excuse for how the basketball side of things came to be on Saturday.

The Minutewomen have one game on Dec. 21 then another break until Dec. 28. UMass went on a four-game terror last year following the Columbia win right before Atlantic 10 play began.

The loss — while early in the year – may prove to be a learning point for the Minutewomen as they look to close out the final non-conference games and make their mark in the A-10 and beyond.

“When we prepared our schedule, we did it for the purpose of post season play, we did it to prepare us for our conference, we knew what we were getting into,” Verdi said. “When you play a team like this, it exposes your weakness … we will learn from this and whenever you lose, you have to look at the situation that was handed to you, go back and look at why you weren’t successful … we will do everything in our power to be better next time we step on the court.”

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Lulukesin.

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