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

UMass struggles early in loss to Rhode Island

Minutewomen score seven points in first quarter
Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team got off to a slow start on Wednesday evening, falling behind to Rhode Island early, and eventually lost 75-68. The Minutewomen (11-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10) recovered from their slow start, outscoring the Rams (11-3, 2-0 A-10) by 14 in quarters two and three. It was all for naught, as 4-of-12 shooting in the fourth quarter cut the legs out from under UMass.

“We just missed shots,” Ber’Nyah Mayo said of the team’s struggles in the fourth quarter. “I would have to go back and watch it again, but in my opinion I would say we just missed shots.”

Entering the final quarter up two, the Minutewomen defense fell apart, as URI cashed in six of its 14 3-pointers in the fourth. The Rams grew their lead to 14 at the end of the quarter, before quick layups and last second 3-point shots from UMass cut the lead to seven before the final buzzer sounded.

“I think that the biggest question that we had today was the comparisons of Rhode Island and UMass. Clearly, right now, [URI] is the better program,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “I’m really disappointed with who we were tonight, and really frustrated from watching the last two hours of basketball.”

Sam Breen was her usual self on Wednesday, dropping a quiet 20 point, 13 rebound and five assist performance. Like most of the Minutewomen, Breen did much of the heavy lifting for her stats in the second and third quarter. She was the only member of UMass to grab over three rebounds, with second place being a three-way tie.

One area where Breen and the rest of the Minutewomen struggled in was taking care of the ball. Breen finished with four turnovers, second only to Destiney Philoxy who finished with seven. Philoxy struggled from beyond the arc and at the free throw line, shooting 1-of-4 and 3-of-6 respectively. Mayo was another who had a tough night from the field, shooting 1-of-7 from 3-point land and 4-of-18 overall. Mayo had half of team’s 16 assists, and added five steals to her stat line.

“We couldn’t convert layups, wide open layups, and those wide open missed layups are like turnovers and they are momentum killers. We had our fair share of those [Wednesday night],” Verdi said. “We were not very good. We got our butts kicked in every facet. We got our butts kicked on the floor and I got my butt kicked.”

In the areas where UMass struggled, it seemed that URI excelled. Four of the nine Rams who saw the floor had double digit points, with Sophie Phillips raining five 3-pointers, shooting 71.4 percent. URI had three more assists and three more turnovers than the Minutewomen, but canned nine more threes, good for a net plus 27 for the Rams.

URI and UMass had similar shooting numbers, with URI scoring three more baskets than the Minutewomen. The Rams live and die by the three, and on Wednesday, they were living life to the fullest. 30 of their 58 shot attempts were from behind the line.

“Give Rhode Island credit, they wanted it, they had a great sense of urgency, they were excited to play, they were connected and they were everything that we weren’t,” Verdi said. “And yet we still had our opportunities down the stretch. The good thing is that when you look at our team, we have more than five players that can score the basketball.”

UMass stormed back in the middle two quarters, shooting 58 percent from the floor. Despite the abundance of scoring from the Minutewomen, URI kept it close, shooting 50 percent from the field across the two quarters in its own right. The Rams hit five 3-pointers in the two periods compared to UMass’ three. The story of the game seemed to be the Minutewomen gaining momentum with back-to-back made baskets, before URI would hit back-to-back shots (more often than not 3-pointers) of its own.

“I know that I have to play more people because defensively, we’re not playing well,” Verdi said. “Rhode Island had opportunities where they could just swing the ball around the floor to the other side on skip passes, and we can’t get out there on time. It says one or two things: we’re exhausted, we’re lazy or we just don’t have a want-to right now.”

UMass is next in action on Saturday, Jan. 7, taking on Loyola Chicago in Illinois. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

“Maybe we needed to be knocked down a peg,” Verdi said. “We’ll learn from it, but I’m moving forward.”

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.

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