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

Tori Hyduke leads UMass to second round of Atlantic 10 championship

Minutewomen overcome poor shooting in win
Matt Skillings
Daily Collegian (2024)

Heading into the fourth quarter up by three points against La Salle, there was a sense of déjà vu surrounding the Massachusetts women’s basketball team. Twice, UMass (5-26, 2-16 Atlantic 10) took leads into the fourth quarter against the Explorers (8-22, 5-13 A-10), with both of those leads being larger than the three points the Minutewomen found themselves ahead by on Wednesday afternoon. Building leads hasn’t been the problem for UMass, it’s been keeping them. It finally overcame that problem in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament; Tori Hyduke made sure of that. Hyduke and the Minutewomen held on, defeating La Salle 54-49. 

It was death by midrange for the graduate student, as all three of her made shots came within the 3-point line. Hyduke was ultra efficient in the final 10 minutes, shooting 75 percent from the field in addition to four made free throws. Her 10 points accounted for over half of UMass’ scoring output in the last frame, as it edged out the Explorers 19 to 17.

“I’ve been in these kind of situations before … I really was just confident and going into it with no worries,” Hyduke said. “[I just] play hard and everything will come from that.”

“There were maybe two or three moments there, late second quarter, early third quarter where we could have just shut down, and we chose the other path,” head coach Mike Leflar said. “I’m especially proud of [Hyduke] and Bre Bellamy, just to be able to continue their careers. I know how much it means to them, I want it to mean that much to everyone in our locker room. For us to be able to do that for [Bellamy and Hyduke] at least one more time gives me a lot of joy.”

It wasn’t just Hyduke that propelled the Minutewomen to the second round of the tournament, as freshman Chinenye Odenigbo carried the scoring load for UMass in the first half. Odenigbo finished as the second leading scorer with 13 points, also snagging seven rebounds, three of which were offensive. Stefanie Kulesza and Alexsia Rose both finished third in team scoring with 10 points each. Rose had five rebounds while Kulesza grabbed 13, along with a steal.

“You saw that height advantage early,” Leflar said. “[Odenigbo] had a really nice start to the game. When [La Salle] went zone, we just weren’t able to get [our forwards] the ball inside and I thought we had the opportunity to just make easy passes. I wanted us to get a lot of offensive rebounds, we got 12, we got some second chance points which were really helpful.”

Three of Kulesza’s 13 rebounds were offensive, two of which came within the first 40 seconds of the game. After winning the tip, the Minutewomen found Kulesza on the block early, who executed a step-through towards the basket before missing the shot. Grabbing her own miss, Kulesza went back up strong to the cup and hit the side of the rim. She crashed the boards once again, using her body to create space, hitting the tough and-one bucket in a congested paint. The first possession of the game signaled how Wednesday would go for Kulesza, who finished 4-of-7 from the field with one made 3-pointer.

Outside of Kulesza, Odenigbo and Hyduke however, UMass had a less than stellar day from the floor. It shot 39.3 percent from the field, and hit just three shots from beyond the arc. Luckily for the Minutewomen, La Salle had an even worse day shooting the ball. Coming off its regular season finale which saw it drop 93 points against No. 9 seeded Fordham, water was bound to find its level, and the Explorers shot 32.1 percent from the floor and hit seven 3-pointers after hitting 20 in their regular season finale.

“Obviously not the result we were hoping for [Wednesday], it was a disappointing way to close out,” La Salle head coach Mountain MacGillivray said. “Credit to UMass, they made plays, they did some really good things, I thought their forwards did a great job helping cover our penetration on our guards, they stayed home on the shooters … it was well executed by them.”

A returning Bellamy added fuel to the fire for UMass, who finished with five points and one make from beyond the arc. Bellamy hadn’t been seen since Feb. 14 after injuring her knee against Rhode Island. She added a 3-point threat to a center-group who don’t extend their game beyond the paint very often. Bellamy shot just under 40 percent from 3-point land on the season at 39.5 percent. A graduate student along with Hyduke, this win extends the collegiate careers of both athletes.

“It was great, just [Bellamy’s] willingness to give it a go,” Leflar said. “She went down with her knee … from the very moment she was back trying to do rehab, like ‘hey if I can get back for the last game of the season or even the conference tournament,’ and that was her mindset. I want those moments to rub off on our freshman. I want those moments to rub off on our team.”

UMass advances, and it has less than 24 hours to prepare for its next matchup against No. 5 seeded Duquesne on Thursday, March 6. Tip off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. from Henrico Sports Complex in Richmond, Va. The game can be watched on ESPN+.

“Well [our offensive production] was enough [Wednesday] … it’s nice when we’re able to move the ball, spread the ball around,” Leflar said. “Ball movement, and really player movement is what we need to be able to manufacture points. There are some really individually talented players in this league … for us, it’s more by committee … we just want to get the best shot each possession. And whether it goes in or not, I can live with the results as long as we’re getting the best shot.”

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

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