UMass basketball: Sam Breen repeats as Atlantic-10 Women’s Basketball Player of the Year

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-28-2023 7:15 PM

Long may she reign.

UMass women’s basketball graduate student forward Sam Breen – “Queen Breen” to fans and on social media – was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year for the second year in a row Tuesday. She became the league’s first repeat winner since Saint Louis’ Jackie Kemp in 2016 and 2017.

“Every game I know exactly what we’re going to get from her,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “We all know what she can do scoring wise, but I would couple that with her leadership.”

Breen, who won three conference player of the week awards this season, led the A-10 averaging 10 rebounds per game and was third scoring 17.9 points per game. Her 16 double-doubles led the A-10 and ranked 12th in the nation. Breen, UMass’ all-time leading scorer, scored in double digits 26 times and had at least 20 points on 13 different occasions, including her last three games.

“It just allows me to focus on a lot of other things, and it’s just a pleasure to have. That’s why she’s so successful, how she prepares every single day,” Verdi said. “When she’s not, she hears it because I expect her to be perfect. There may be a time or two, but very few, instances where she’s not perfect and she hears it from me. I would not put her in position if I knew she couldn’t be great. I did those things because I knew she could be great, and I’m going to hold her to a higher standard.”

She’s also a semifinalist for the Becky Hammon mid-major Player of the Year Award and a member of the Atlantic 10 All-Conference first team.

UMass senior Sydney Taylor joined Breen on the first team after averaging 16.2 points per game (seventh A-10). Her 3.1 3s per game led the league, and she was fifth in the A-10 in 3-point percentage (39.4 percent).

Junior guard Ber’Nyah Mayo received second team honors for the Minutewomen, while grad student Destiney Philoxy is on the all-defensive team.

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“To me, they’re team awards,” Verdi said. “I’m so proud because it’s about team. People respect the quality of work that they put in. Everything they all do impacts winning, and there’s a reason why we won a championship, and it’s because of everything they do.”

TOURNAMENT TIME – UMass (24-5, 14-2 A-10) is the No. 1 seed in the A-10 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Wilmington, Delaware, for the first time in program history after defeating George Washington in the regular season finale.

The defending champion Minutewomen have a double bye to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. They don’t play until 11 a.m. Friday and will face either No. 8 La Salle (17-13, 8-7) or No. 9 George Mason (15-14, 8-8).

UMass went 2-0 against those opponents with an average margin of victory of 21.5 points per game.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to win another championship and put ourselves in position that we’ve never been before to win a regular season championship and a tournament championship,” Verdi said. “It’s the culmination of everything that we’ve been working for.”

STRETCH RUN – The last week of the UMass men’s basketball regular season begins with a road date at Duquense (7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN-Plus).

UMass is 1-7 in its last eight games but won its previous road game Feb. 18 at Rhode Island. The Minutemen (14-14, 5-11 A-10) are 13th in the league standings and would need a perfect last week, which also includes a Saturday home date against Saint Bonaventure (12:30 p.m. USA), plus some help to leapfrog Saint Joseph’s for 12th.

They won the previous meeting against the Dukes 87-79 in late January. The teams’ paths diverged following that meeting. Duquesne (19-10, 9-7) is 5-2 and rose to fifth in the league standings, just outside a double bye.

The Dukes boast the A-10’s third-best offense (75 points per game) buoyed by their conference-leading 37.2 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc. They also have the conference’s No. 2 turnover margin (+2.41 per game) and assist to turnover ratio (1.29) and are second in the league in assists (15.45 per game).

Dae Dae Grant leads Duquesne averaging 15.5 points per game. Jimmy Clark III scores 11.8 points per game and ranks second in the A-10 with 2.2 steals per game.

Tevin Brewer (7.2 points per game) is second in the conference in both 3-point percentage (46.2) and assist to turnover ratio (2.9).

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.]]>