Sam Breen posts 6th double-double as UMass handles Fairfield, 74-61

  • UMass forward Sydney Taylor hit four 3s in the first quarter and scored 12 points, as the UMass women’s basketball team beat Fairfield on Wednesday at the Mullins THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass forward Sam Breen posted her sixth double-double of the season, as the UMass women’s basketball team beat Fairfield at the Mullins Center on Wednesday. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS—THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/1/2021 10:04:28 PM

AMHERST – The Minutewomen didn’t miss a beat Wednesday night.

The UMass women’s basketball team returned home from the Gulf Coast Showcase and opened a three-game homestand with a 74-61 win over Fairfield at the Mullins Center.

Sam Breen posted another double-double, her sixth of the season, pouring in a team-high 22 points to go with 16 rebounds, and the team as a whole limited Lou Lopez-Senechal, who was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year, to just eight points. 

All in all, it was a strong overall effort in the team’s fourth game in six days, something that head coach Tory Verdi didn’t overlook. 

“We knew we had to grind it out, we're playing against a team that's very offensively efficient,” Verdi said. “We were just tougher down the stretch. We out-rebounded them by 32, you know, and going into this game that was one of our goals. We really hurt them on the glass, and with 20 offensive rebounds, (that) gave us second chance opportunity points.”

Despite the emphasis on playing inside the paint and earning those second chances, the Minutewomen also dominated with some help from behind the arc, knocking down 14 triples. Four players – Breen, Sydney Taylor, Destiney Philoxy and Ber’Nyah Mayo – all finished with at least two 3-pointers; Breen, Taylor, and Philoxy scored four triples apiece. 

Was shooting that many 3-pointers part of the team’s game plan going in? 

“No – I mean, it's actually quite the opposite,” Verdi said, shrugging. “So, you know, maybe they’re not listening to me.”

Breen clarified in postgame media that, technically, the team did what Verdi asked – they just added an extra step to the plan.

“It was a lot of inside out. We would hit inside, and that would really open the three-point line, and when you’re wide open on the three-point line, you can't not pass them the ball,” Breen said “So we got the interior for him, and then we just kicked it back out.” 

UMass excelled in all areas of the court, snagging defensive and offensive rebounds. It got into the groove from behind the arc as the game progressed. Perhaps what was most impressive was the team’s performance in the paint and on second-chance opportunities. The Minutewomen finished with 20 points in the paint and 18 second-chance points. 

UMass jumped out to a 17-6 lead late in the first quarter, but Fairfield snuck back up in the last 65 seconds. Sydney Lowry knocked down two back-to-back triples, and the Minutewomen saw their 11-point lead cut to five heading into the second quarter. 

The Stags continued to threaten early in the second, with Lowry knocking down two free-throws and Janelle Brown causing some serious headaches for the Minutewomen when she scored back-to-back layups to pull within one.

After that wakeup call, UMass kicked it into high gear. Breen knocked down a 3-pointer before Taylor scored back-to-back triples as part of a 9-0 run, putting the Minutewomen safely back in a more comfortable lead. The Minutewomen outscored Fairfield 18-8 in the second frame and outrebounded them 17-5 to cruise to a 35-20 lead at the half. 

The Stags shot 50 percent from the field in the third quarter, pouring in 25 points, but UMass kept pace with them offensively and were outscored just 25-23; before the end of the third quarter, Breen had already secured her double-double. Fairfield attempted a late comeback in the fourth, pulling within single digits a couple times, but couldn’t get much closer; that was in part thanks to Destiney Philoxy, who scored all 17 of her points in the second half, giving a massive boost to the Minutewomen. 

That effort was the same across the board – Makennah White was a rebound and field goal away from a double-double of her own, Sydney Taylor was a beast on defense, grabbing nine rebounds and 12 points, and White came out firing in the first quarter, helping give UMass a sizeable lead. While Verdi was impressed with Breen's sixth double-double and her overall performance so far this season, the depth on his team is what stood out to him on Wednesday. 

“I’ve said this since she arrived here on campus, at the end of her career, I think she’s going to be one of the best players ever to put on a Minutewomen jersey,” Verdi said on Breen. “To know that we're gonna get that point production from her each and every single night, it’s great. But you look at all the other players, it's just not (only) Sam. You look at Destiney Philoxy, and you look at Sydney Taylor, you look at, you know Ber’Nyah Mayo, then you look at Angelique... so we're getting that production.”

In addition to the Minutewomen’s win, it was a homecoming of sorts for Holyoke native Callie Cavanaugh, who started for the Stags and shared the team lead in points with 14. Cavanaugh remains one of Holyoke’s most prolific athletes, finishing with 1,773 career points and breaking the city’s scoring record, in addition to becoming the Purple Knights’ first-ever Vi Goodnow Award winner as a junior, given to the best player in Western Mass.


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