UMass women’s basketball finding balance ahead of showdown at New Hampshire

  • UMass freshman Ber’Nyah Mayo drives to the basket against Rhode Island on Tuesday. The Minutewomen will face New Hampshire on Thursday. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass’ Maddie Sims, left, and Destiney Philoxy, right, box out Rhode Island’s Emmanuelle Tahane during the Minutewomen’s win Tuesday. UMass will face New Hampshire at 6 p.m. Thursday. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2020 5:17:22 PM

A balanced approach sparked the UMass women’s basketball team’s first winning streak of the season. Four players reached double figures in the Minutewomen’s home victory over Rhode Island on Tuesday.

“Our posts dominate games, then our guards dominate games. They complement one another,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “On any given day, we have certain people who can help carry us.”

The next opportunity is Thursday, as UMass tries to extend its streak to three games against New Hampshire at 6 p.m. in Durham, New Hampshire. The Minutewomen (3-1) have won their previous two games by double figures after an overtime loss at Boston College. They’ll face a New Hampshire team fresh off its first win under new coach Kelsey Hogan.

The Wildcats (1-3) split their weekend America East series against NJIT after losses to Bryant and BC to open the year. New Hampshire boasts two cornerstones in senior guard Amanda Torres, the reigning America East Player of the Week, and junior post Ivy Gogolin. Torres is averaging 15.8 points per game and put up 20 in two of her previous three. Gogolin is also in double figures at 11 per game and grabs 5.3 per contest.

“For us it all starts with ball pressure. We’ve got to put a tremendous amount of ball pressure on their guards,” Verdi said. “That way they’re not allowed to execute offensively.”

The Wildcats rebound well (37.8 per game) and like to push the pace offensively to the tune of 10.5 fast break points per game. They score nine points per game on second chances.

“On a change of possession we’ve got to sprint back, we’ve got to stop the ball, we’ve got to protect the basket,” Verdi said. “Lastly, we gotta box out and rebound. Our goal is to make sure they’re one and done — can’t give them any second-chance opportunities.”

The Minutewomen will approach that challenge with a varied arsenal. They have two players scoring more than 20 points per game. Freshman Sydney Taylor leads the team at 20.5 per game, with senior Sam Breen right behind her at 20.3. Taylor is tied for eighth in the country with 14 3s. She hits 2.5 triples per game.

“Sydney Taylor has been a cornerstone. She’s been consistent for us,” Verdi said.

Destiny Philoxy keeps everything moving and running at the point. She ranks second in the nation in total assists (32) and is fourth in the country in assists per game (7.8). Philoxy notched a season high with 19 points against Rhode Island. She lived in the lane and at the rim, scoring and creating opportunities for her teammates.

“We knew coming in their guards would struggle containing dribble penetration,” Verdi said. “We wanted to attack downhill, get to the rim.”

That came at the expense of post scoring. The Rams defended UMass’ post players well, holding Breen to her lowest output of the season, 11 points. Verdi is hoping to get contributions from both the post and the perimeter going forward.

“They were really physical with Sam. We need to do a better job getting her different looks,” he said. “We’re still trying to get our own identity and figure things out. I think our best basketball’s ahead of us.”

INJURY UPDATE – Verdi said both Maeve Donnelly and Madison Lowery are “day to day” recovering from injuries. Lowery didn’t play against Rhode Island with a sprained ankle, Verdi said, while Donnelly hasn’t played this season due to concussion protocols.

“Hopefully, they’re back sooner than later,” Verdi said.

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


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