UMass women’s basketball captures 1st ever win at VCU

  • Destiney Philoxy drove and finished against VCU on Friday in Richmond, Va. The Minutewomen won 55-49. AMBER SEARLS/VCU ATHLETICS

  • Danielle Sanderlin drives against VCU on Friday in Richmond, Va. The Minutewomen won 55-49. AMBER SEARLS/VCU ATHLETICS

  • Maddie Sims leaps for the tip against VCU on Friday in Richmond, Va. The Minutewomen won 55-49. AMBER SEARLS/VCU ATHLETICS

  • Sam Breen and Sydney Taylor embrace Friday after the Minutewomen’s first-ever victory against VCU in Richmond. UMass last won a game against the Rams in Amherst in 2018. AMBER SEARLS/VCU ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2021 9:29:20 PM

Disaster flirted with the UMass women’s basketball team.

The Minutewomen weren’t interested.

UMass led by VCU by seven points with 37 seconds remaining Wednesday in Richmond, Virgina. The lead, threatened all night but never taken after the opening three minutes, finally appeared secure.

Appearances deceived. VCU’s Tera Reed splashed a 3 with 30 seconds remaining to cut the advantage to four, showing up when the Rams needed her most after sitting most of the contest with foul trouble.

Then VCU’s Janika Griffith-Wallace stole the ball from UMass senior Maddie Sims in a press and threw it ahead to Sydnei Archie for an open layup that made it a two-point game with 16 seconds left.  

“We had some unfortunate turnovers down the stretch. Uncharacteristic,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “You’ve got to value the ball. We were moving a bit too fast.”

The Rams set up their press again. Destiney Philoxy broke it up the right sideline then passed to Sam Breen up high. She passed to freshman Ber’Nyah Mayo, who was fouled. Mayo swished both free throws to push the lead back to two possessions. Reed missed a 3 on the other end, and Sam Breen, who led the team with 19 points and 11 rebounds, iced the 55-49 victory with two free throws.

It was UMass’ first ever win against VCU in Richmond and the first time the Minutewomen (9-2, 5-1 A-10) beat them at all since 2018. The victory moved UMass into second place in the Atlantic 10 standings a half game behind 5-0 Dayton. 

The end didn’t need to be so dramatic. UMass ripped off a 17-0 run to build a 21-5 lead in the first quarter. VCU shot 20 percent from the field and turned the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes. UMass had 16 points in the paint and eight from those turnovers. 

“This team was prepared, and we’re confident, and they know what we’re capable of doing,” Verdi said. 

The Rams (6-6, 4-1) spent the entire second quarter reeling UMass back in. They made 8-of-14 shots and cut the deficit to 30-28 at halftime.

“We expected them to make runs,” UMass senior Maddie Sims said. “We just had to fire back.”

It took 8:52 of the third quarter for VCU to score again. Meanwhile, the Minutewomen scored nine points in a row to extend their lead to 11. It reached 13 by the start of the third quarter. UMass had 12 steals and forced 18 turnovers.

“Our zone bothered them. It was active, and at times they were coughing it up and giving it right to us,” Verdi said. 

The Minutewomen built that advantage with Reed on the bench. She picked up her third foul 90 seconds into the third quarter and committed her fourth with 3:03 remaining, just over a minute after she checked back in. At the time, she only had two points and two shot attempts.

The senior made up for it in the fourth. She scored seven points and helped VCU claw back once again. The Rams, who were down 14 with 7:09 left, pulled within four in five and a half minutes. Archie corralled three massive offensive rebounds in the frame, two of which led directly to points.

But UMass held the lead and won for the eight time in its past nine games. The Minutewomen continued their best start since 2006-07 and are off to their best beginning of an A-10 season since 1998-99. They can extend their winning streak to four games at 2 p.m. Sunday at Richmond.




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