UMass coach Tory Verdi to VCU: “They need to match up with us”

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2021 4:49:01 PM

The four-guard lineup the Virginia Commonwealth women’s basketball team regularly deploys presents a dilemma for opponents: play small like the Rams to match up or lean on size to overpower shorter players.

UMass coach Tory Verdi hasn’t spent too much time agonizing over the choice ahead of Friday’s 6 p.m. Atlantic 10 matchup in Richmond, Va.

“They need to match up with us instead of us being so concerned about matching up with them,” Verdi offered.

The Minutewomen (8-2, 4-1 Atlantic 10) have earned the right to approach opponents with that mentality thanks to their recent run of play. They have won seven of their past eight games and are off to the program’s best start since the 2006-07 season. UMass is second in the A-10 standings, a half game behind 4-0 VCU and Dayton.

The Rams (6-5 overall) have picked up steam after a slow start. VCU has won its previous four games by 12.5 points per game. Four Rams average double-digit scoring led by Tara Reed’s 15.3 points per game. Three are guards: Reed, Taya Robinson (12.9 points per game) and Sarah Te-Biasu (11.7). Forward Sydnei Archie scores 11.1 per contest.

“We’re getting ready for an undersized, fast, athletic team. They utilize their personnel,” Verdi said. “They want to score in transition and they to do a great job of it.”

UMass focused on its defensive preparation in practice Tuesday. The Mintuewomen will utilize multiple defensive alignments to try and slow down the Rams.

“They’re very guard-oriented so it’s a lot of drives,” UMass junior Danielle Sanderlin said. “We’re going to mix it up on them. We did a lot of good D stuff today to keep them in control on the open floor.”

The Minutewomen held Fordham guard Anna DeWolf, the conference’s leading scorer, in check Sunday. She had 21 points but took 24 shots to get it and only shot two free throws. DeWolf only had 11 points until the final 3 minutes, 13 seconds as UMass kept the Rams at arm’s length after a double-digit comeback.

“We had the want to, the grit, the determination. If you have that there’s not much chance for error. Even if we get down these two games this weekend, we have a chance to get back,” Sanderlin said. “It’s always good to be up, so that’s obviously our main goal is to get up and stay up. Even if we are down, there’s no quit in us.”

ROAD TRIP – UMass is embarking on its second true road trip of the season after playing the previous three contests at home. The Minutewomen won at La Salle in Philadelphia last weekend and stayed close to home for its nonconference schedule, playing games that could be contested with a day trip.

After Friday’s game they’ll stay in Virginia and play against the University of Richmond on Sunday.

The excursions look very different than a typical trek in a non-pandemic season.

“I tell the freshmen all the time ‘this is not normal.’ If we had all this time we would be going to the mall, seeing some attractions doing something fun," Sanderlin said. “We have to utilize each other, make each other laugh, take naps. There’s not much to do and it is really boring. We have to make the best of it.”

Verdi is taking the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. There wasn’t much down time during the previous week of packed games when the staff was constantly shuffling from preparing from one opponent to the next.

“It was tough. It was draining,” he said. “I only have 24 hours to scramble and get enough video in and watch (the next opponent) and get educated on them. There’s not a free time when you’re doing that kind of stuff.”

SAME STARTERS – The same five Minutewomen have started all 10 games so far: senior forward Sam Breen, freshman guard Ber’Nyah Mayo, junior guard Destiney Philoxy, sophomore guard Sydney Taylor and senior forward Maddie Sims.

They combine for 62.5 points per game, 86.9 percent of the Minutewomen’s total.

“It gives us some continuity. The players that are starting for us have played a lot of basketball,” Verdi said. “It gives us a lot of experience. It gives us a balance in scoring on the inside and perimeter. Those guys do a great job. They’ve given me confidence and that’s why they’re in the position that they’re in.”

PHILOXY NAMED CAPTAIN – Verdi announced Wednesday that Philoxy has been added to the team’s leadership group along with Breen and Sims.

"Destiney has grown exceptionally as a player and as a person since she arrived in our program," Verdi said. "She embodies all the qualities we expect at UMass, both on and off the court, and we could not be happier to call her a captain of this team.”

Philoxy is currently ranked second in the nation at eight assists per game. She also helped design the team’s shooting shirts, which have the names of victims of police violence on the back.

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


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