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 women’s basketball loses conference opener

Minutewomen can’t capitalize on 19 first-half free throw attempts
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

Not a whole lot went right in the second half for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team in its 65-45 loss to VCU to open Atlantic 10 play on Saturday night. The Minutewomen (2-11, 0-1 A-10) came into the latter 20 minutes trailing the Rams (12-1, 1-0 A-10) by six after the two squads fought a tough, back-and-forth battle through quarters one and two.

What kept UMass in the game through those first 20 minutes was 19 free throw attempts from the visiting squad. The Minutewomen hit just 63.2 percent of their free throws, good for 12 makes from the charity stripe. They didn’t attempt a free throw in the second half.

The Rams didn’t fair much better at the line, shooting 63.6 percent, taking a total of 22, and hitting 14. Foul trouble, a constant theme for UMass throughout the entirety of non-conference play, was prevalent once again at the start of A-10 play. Four of the eight who saw the floor for Massachusetts finished with three fouls or more, with Alexsia Rose fouling out.

“Defending without fouling is so important, it’s controllable and it’s a discipline thing,” head coach Mike Leflar said. “We just haven’t understood that. Whether we’re making some youthful mistakes, I know someone like [Rose] is just getting back into full gameplay, getting accustomed to the speed of the game again, I’m sure that there’s some mistakes and some reaches … it’s just about understanding that we need to keep the ball in front of us.”

Just three shots that UMass threw up in the third quarter resulted in points for the Minutewomen, with the first coming nearly four minutes into the second half. Tori Hyduke hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line to finally put second half points on the board for Massachusetts, and it didn’t score again until almost four minutes later when Bre Bellamy hit a top of the key 3-pointer that ended a 7-0 Rams run.

While the third block of 10 minutes brought nothing but troubles and tribulations for the Minutewomen, the opposite occurred for VCU. It scored 19 points in the third quarter, the most it had in any quarter during Saturday’s contest. The Rams shot a tick over 53 percent from the field in the third, with most of their buckets coming as the end result of out-hustling and out-running UMass in transition.

“[VCU] was so much more aggressive in transition [in the second half],” Leflar said. “They stepped up their defense, we stopped moving the basketball as much and didn’t make them defend for very long in the shot clock … any turnover, [the Rams] took it down to the other end and really forced things in transition, forced the tempo, forced the issue … They were more aggressive. They were more aggressive in transition, they were more aggressive in getting offensive rebounds … they had 10 [offensive boards] in the second half.”

The Minutewomen struggled to score in all three phases Saturday evening, shooting 32.6 percent from the field and just over 16 percent from 3, hitting three all night, two of which came in the third quarter where they scored eight points. The only players to shoot 50 percent or above were the aforementioned Bellamy who finished 3-of-5 with one 3, while Dallas Pierce hit one of the two 3-pointers that she attempted.

One positive that UMass takes away from this game is in its ability to force the opposition to commit turnovers. VCU committed 23 turnovers over the 40 minutes, with the Minutewomen capitalizing with 10 of their 45 total points coming off mistakes from their opponents. They themselves turned the ball over 21 times, and VCU had a higher success rate in generating points off these mistakes, scoring 19 points off Massachusetts turnovers.

UMass is next in action on Tuesday, Jan. 2 facing Dayton in its second conference matchup of the season. Tip-off from the Mullins Center is scheduled for 5 p.m., and the game can be viewed on ESPN+.

“The theme is to continue to improve,” Leflar said. “There are things that we certainly have to improve upon and we’ll talk about some things we did well … Just more ball movement on offense. The ball just can’t stick. We’ve [got to] rely on the movement to get us open shots.”

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

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