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

Transition defense hinders UMass championship run

Minutewomen allow 14 fastbreak points
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

WILMINGTON, Del. – With a championship on the line as the No.1 seed, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team lost to No. 3 Saint Louis on Sunday afternoon. The Minutewomen (26-6, 14-2 Atlantic 10) played neck-and-neck with their opponents for the entirety of the game, but what ultimately sank the ship for UMass was its lackluster transition defense.

The Billikens (17-17, 10-6 A-10) finished with 14 points in transition, the most that the Minutewomen allowed in the A-10 championship tournament. To George Mason and Richmond, they allowed 10 and five fast break points, respectively. Brooke Flowers of Saint Louis dominated the floor in transition, playing 44 minutes and scoring easy twos en route to 13 points. Transition defense was also a struggle last time out for the Minutewomen against Saint Louis, as they allowed 13 transition points.

UMass focused in on defending the paint without as much of an emphasis on defending the 3-point line. Saint Louis had stellar ball movement, exasperating the defensive emphasis for UMass, with players getting caught in rotation, leading to easy paint buckets. Saint Louis finished with 46 of its 91 points in the paint, and 13 turnovers to the Minutewomen’s 14.

“We broke down,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “Our game plan coming into [Sunday] was to contain dribble penetration. We know [Julia Martinez] wants to attack the basket, she doesn’t shoot the ball. Regardless of whether we played off of her and gave her space, she still found a way to get to the basket.”

Whether it was off a turnover, miss or even a made basket, the Billikens pushed the pace of the game, catching UMass off guard with their intensity. On more than one occasion, Flowers leaked out as the Minutewomen offensive possession ended, ahead of the pack and more importantly, ahead of UMass’ forwards. All three Minutewomen guards had no chance against the six-foot-five-inch flowers who is eight inch taller than UMass’ tallest guard Sydney Taylor.

“I think that we struggled at times,” Verdi said. “When you look at what [Julia Martinez] did, [Flowers] only had 13 points, it was her points in transition. We’ve never given this many points in transition defensively. [Flowers] did a great job of getting runouts. We would come up, and [Angelique Ngalakulondi] would be running back, Flowers is ahead of her, our safety would come up and they would lob it over the top. We gave up points that way.”

The first meeting between the Billikens and the Minutewomen on Feb. 22 was nothing like their second clash in the A-10 championship game. In that game, Saint Louis shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line, completely opposite of a typical performance from it. On Sunday, it won the way that it had won all season, dominating the transition points and not giving its opponent enough time to catch its breath.

“It was a number of things [on Sunday] defensively, we didn’t play our best,” Verdi said. “I’ve said this all along, ‘if you don’t play defense and you don’t rebound, it’s really hard to win a championship.'”

Midway through the fourth quarter with UMass down three, Flowers caught the ball on the fast break before making her move to the hoop. Ngalakulondi stayed straight up in the air, causing Flowers to throw the ball off the backboard, missing the rim entirely. Sam Breen grabbed the defensive board, before rewarding Ngalakulondi with a perfectly placed pass for two of her own points in transition.

Ngalakulondi was one of the few who were able to limit Flowers in transition, holding her to 6-for-13 shooting (46.2 percent), a hair under her season average. Ngalakulondi was also the only member of UMass to finish with less than two fouls which speaks to the way she was able to effectively defend. Ngalakulondi herself finished with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting.

The Minutewomen await to see if they will receive an at-large bid or play in the WNIT tournament.

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

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *