WNIT: UMass notches 1st postseason win since 1995 over Charlotte

  • Sydney Taylor made three 3s and posted a career-high seven assists, as the UMass women's basketball team won its first postseason game since 1995 on Saturday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. The Minutewomen took down Charlotte 81-75 in the WNIT consolation bracket. COURTESY JAY CRAIN

  • Sydney Taylor made three 3s and posted a career-high seven assists, as the UMass women's basketball team won its first postseason game since 1995 on Saturday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. The Minutewomen took down Charlotte 81-75 in the WNIT consolation bracket. COURTESY JAY CRAIN

  • Sam Breen had 25 points Saturday against Charlotte in the WNIT consolation bracket, which tied the UMass women's basketball record for points in a national postseason game.The Mintutewomen took down Charlotte 81-75 on Saturday at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C. COURTESY JAY CRAIN

Staff Writer
Published: 3/20/2021 5:45:50 PM

Sydney Taylor ended  a 50-minute, 45-second dry spell from beyond the arc for the UMass women’s basketball team when she connected on a triple from the right wing.

The Minutewomen hadn’t made a 3 since there was 7 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the Atlantic 10 championship game against VCU. They missed all 11 in Friday’s loss to Villanova in the WNIT opener.

Then against Charlotte in Saturday’s WNIT consolation game, Taylor missed her first attempt 2:41 in before connecting on her second. It cut UMass’ deficit to 3 after the 49ers built a two-possession lead.

“For a fact, that one felt really good, that one and the next one. It got some momentum and energy going and that’s what we needed in (Saturday’s) game,” Taylor said.

UMass didn’t have to wait nearly as long for her second. She splashed another one 1:14 later that put the Minutewomen ahead by two. Charlotte retook the lead with three Octavia Jett-Wilson free throws, but Angelique Ngalakulodi countered with a layup that gave UMass the lead for good. It sparked a 13-0 run, and the Minutewomen held the lead for the remainder of an 81-75 victory at Bojangles Colliseum in Charlotte, N.C.

It was UMass’ first national tournament victory since 1995 when the Minutewomen beat VCU in the NWIT, a tournament contested until 1996. UMass will face Ohio in the Charlotte Regional consolation bracket final at 4 p.m. Monday seeking a second postseason win for the first time in program history.

“That’s huge. It means a lot to us. We worked so hard to get here. Getting a win gave us a little momentum,” Taylor said. “End the season out with a win, that would be the main goal.”

Taylor finished with 16 points and a career-high seven assists. She was one of four Minutewomen in double figures. Senior forward Sam Breen led UMass with 25 points and nine rebounds. She scored 16 of those in the second half as the Minutewomen kept Charlotte at bay. The 25 points tied a UMass postseason record. Octavia Thomas also had 25 against Iowa in the 1998 NCAA tournament.

“Sam made some tough shots today. It gave us a boost,” Taylor said.

UMass (15-8) led by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter, but Charlotte’s Jada McMillan tied the game at 40 with two free throws with 4:13 remaining in the third quarter. UMass ripped off a 12-5 stretch capped by a Breen 3. The 49ers never cut it to a single possession for the remainder of the game.

The Minutewomen shot 54.7 percent from the field and finished with 15 assists and 13 fast break points.

Ngalakulondi scored 13 of her 16 points in the first half, while Destiney Philoxy had 12 points, six assists and three steals.

“I challenged them after the last time we took the floor. I thought we played more of a complete game,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “Was it perfect? No. But I thought we made huge plays down the stretch.”

The biggest play any UMass player made may have been avoiding a fifth foul. Three Minutewomen had four fouls in the game: Ngalakulondi dealt with them for the final 4:48 of the third quarter on, while  Makennah White got hers with 6:48 remaining in the game while Breen picked hers up a minute later. The Minutewomen had only two bench players available, so shortening the rotation any further could have been disastrous.

UMass only led by seven with Breen was whistled for No. 4 with 5:51 left, and Jett-Wilson cut it to 5 with a jumper. The Minutewomen made 10-of-13 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. They’ll have a day and a half to rest and prepare for Ohio, which beat Fordham 81-65 in the consolation bracket after losing to Delaware in the opening round.

“The best thing for us is the rest. We need the rest,” said Verdi, who is familiar with the Bobcats from his time in the MAC coaching Eastern Michigan. “How you beat Ohio? One, you’ve got to out rebound them and two, you’ve got to take care of the basketball and you’ve got to contain dribble penetration. We’ve got one game left this year and we want to go out there and get another postseason win.”

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