UMass falls to Saint Louis as Minutewomen are dealt 10th straight losing season

For the Gazette
Wednesday, February 01, 2017

AMHERST — The UMass women’s basketball team fell behind quickly and never recovered as it fell 81-60 to Saint Louis, Wednesday at the Mullins Center.

It was the fifth straight loss for the Minutewomen (9-15, 3-8 Atlantic 10), who are guaranteed a losing season for the 10th straight year.

“We got outworked, we got outplayed, we got out-toughed, and we got outcoached for 40 minutes,” said first-year coach Tony Verdi. “We went up against a very skilled team. They’re 18-5 for a reason.”

Maggie Mulligan led all scorers and rebounders with 22 points and 14 boards, her team-leading 17th double-double. Hailey Leidel added 17 points and 11 rebounds, and set a freshman scoring record for most points in a season during the loss.

The remaining UMass starters struggled, scoring 18 points on 6 of 22 shooting.

Saint Louis (18-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10) got off to a hot start and led 28-12 after the first quarter. The Billikens made four 3-pointers within the first three minutes, and made nine in the first half as they led 44-36 at halftime. Jordan Frantz had four of those 3s.

Saint Louis’ defensive aggression plagued the Minutewomen, who had 21 turnovers.

“Obviously, it doesn’t help to turn the ball over 21 times,” said Verdi. “We cut into their lead a little bit right before the half, but when you give up the ball ... it hurts you.”

After leading by as many as 17, Saint Louis’ lead was cut to eight following three-point play by Leidel in the first half’s closing seconds. But the third quarter started out much like the first.

Saint Louis nearly doubled its lead in the second half’s first four minutes. By the end of third, the Billikens led 64-48.

Neither the 2-3 zone or man-to-man defenses seemed to work for the Minutewomen. Saint Louis spread the floor with rapid ball movement and cross-court passes, finding open shooters and leaving UMass defenders scrambled.

“We didn’t have any ball pressure” on the perimeter, said Verdi. “Without ball pressure, you’re allowed to swing the ball all over the perimeter.”

The Minutewomen host Davidson (3-18, 1-8 Atlantic 10) at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Just staying together and working hard is everything,” Leidel said. “We need to focus on the next games. A lot has happened, and if we focus on that I don’t think it will set us up to be successful, so we just need to have a what’s-next mentality and focus on the next couple games.”