Sam Breen leads UMass women’s basketball comeback past Fordham

  • Sam Breen scored 10 points in the third quarter to lead the UMass women’s basketball team’s comeback against Fordham on Sunday at the Mullins Center. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass junior guard Destiney Philoxy took a charge in a key moment, as the Minutewomen beat Fordham at the Mullins Center on Sunday. She finished with seven points, six assists and five stea CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass freshman Ber’Nyah Mayos cored 11 points in the Minutewomen’s victory over Fordham on Sunday at the Mullins Center, including a go-ahead bsket in the third quarter. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/10/2021 4:57:35 PM
Modified: 1/10/2021 4:57:15 PM

When the UMass women’s basketball team began scouting and preparing for Fordham earlier this week, coach Tory Verdi wrote the date February 6, 2010 in large, bold letters on the whiteboard. That was the last time the Minutewomen defeated Fordham, a streak of 13 straight losses.

He wrote the date on sticky notes and hung it in his players’ lockers, a reminder of the history they could alter Sunday.

“It’s been 11 years since we’ve beaten them. I said, ‘You have the opportunity to do something that no other team before you in the last 11 years had done,’” Verdi said. “I wanted to put it in their minds (that) it’s been a long time.”

UMass rose to the challenge and took down Fordham, 61-56, at the Mullins Center

None of those previous 13 losses mattered to this year’s Minutewomen, especially not when they trailed by 12 points with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter. They were down seven at halftime and trailed for most of the third quarter until senior Sam Breen went to work.

The Minutewomen’s leading scorer had just two points in the first half. She sank five straight baskets in the third quarter and helped power a 10-2 UMass run that enabled it to retake the lead.

“Once Sam gets going, there’s pretty much no stopping Sam,” UMass freshman Ber’Nyah Mayo said. “Once she got her first layup in, we knew we could keep going back to her and she would finish every time.”

Breen began with a layup that cut the deficit to 34-31 with 6:39 remaining in the third, the first time the deficit was a single possession since the  7:46 mark of the first quarter.

Fordham (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic 10) initially trailed 2-0 then established control with an 8-0 run.

Breen wrested it back in the third. She cut the deficit to one with a jumper at 5:40 after grabbing a defensive rebound. She posted her sixth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Mayo gave the Minutewomen the lead briefly with a layup a minute later, then Fordham’s Megan Jonassen sank two free throws to go back ahead 36-35. May finished with a career high 11 points and added five rebounds.

The Rams’ advantage didn’t last long.

Breen swished another jumper with 3:41 remaining to take the lead back for good. She finished with 10 points in the quarter, as UMass (8-2, 4-1 A-10) outscored Fordham 15-7.

“My touches in the first half, I could have utilized them better. I could have worked more in the post. I realized that coming out of halftime,” Breen said. “Once I make one move and realize it’s working, I continue to go with it.”

Freshman Makennah White ensured the Minutewomen stayed ahead in the fourth. She scored seven of her 11 points and grabbed four of her six rebounds in the final frame. UMass started the fourth with an 8-0 run, and White had six of those points.

“Makennah White was the ‘X’ factor today. She came in the fourth period and changed the whole complexion with her physicality,” Verdi said.

The Minutewomen held Fordham to just 8-of-31 shooting in the second half. They outrebounded the Rams 20-18 and outscored then 22-6 in the paint.

“We had to match their physicality. We told them if we’re going to beat a team like Fordham you have to match their physicality,” Verdi said.

The victory was UMass’ seventh in their past eight games. The Minutewomen matched their best start since the 2006-07 season, when they were 9-2.

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