UMass basketball: Ber’Nyah Mayo nets career-high 29 points, hits game winner as Minutewomen beat Fordham for 9th straight win

By HANNAH BEVIS

Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2023 10:54 PM

AMHERST — With less than 15 seconds on the clock Wednesday night, Ber’Nyah Mayo went in for a layup, sent Asiah Dingle flying to the floor and rose up for a floater. The ball seemed to hang in midair for a second longer than usual before it fell through, barely kissing the rim to give the UMass women’s basketball team a one-point lead with 11 seconds remaining. 

Mayo let out a triumphant yell that was swallowed up by the Mullins Center crowd’s cheers. The bucket gave her 29 points, a career high, and ultimately stood as the game-winning hoop in a 80-79 barn burner victory against Fordham.

“I feel like it's just in me,” Mayo said on her ability to step up in clutch moments. “I work on my game a lot, so I trust myself a lot in those situations. Just going back from AAU and high school, I've been in that situation a lot, so now it’s just normal, honestly.” 

Mayo’s 29 points bested her previous marker of 20 points, scored on Feb. 26, 2021, against VCU.

“Ber’Nyah Mayo played on a whole ‘nother level here tonight. And hopefully you got to see how special of a player she is. These are things that we see, you know, on a daily basis,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “She just kept her composure to finish the play. It wasn't our best basketball, but we still found a way to win.”

UMass improved to 20-4 on the season, 10-1 in the Atlantic 10. The Minutewomen trail Rhode Island (20-3, 11-0) by just one game in the league standings.

Fordham (16-9, 8-4) went 4-for-7 from the three-point line in the opening frame and out-rebounded UMass 8-6.  The visitors built a five-point lead with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter, but by the end of the period UMass had pulled back to within one, down just 18-17. 

Fordham went off in the second quarter, led by Dingle’s 11 points; by the end of the half she had 21 points and six rebounds for Fordham.

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It seemed like the Rams would run away with the game, pulling ahead 41-30 with just over a minute and a half to go. Right on cue, Sydney Taylor, Sam Breen and Destiney Philoxy hit back-to-back-to-back triples in the final 80 seconds of the half to make it 41-39, cutting an 11-point deficit to a two-point deficit in just over a minute. 

Both teams traded buckets back and forth in the third period, but it was UMass that finished with a 25-19 edge in points. In the third quarter alone, the Minutewomen grabbed five steals and dished out six assists. Tied 60-60 with the clock ticking down, Mayo banked in an and-one and sank the free throw, giving UMass a 63-60 lead with 10 minutes to play. UMass locked its defense down in the second half, limiting Fordham’s offensive chances. 

“We definitely switched a lot defensively. That was our main focus,” Breen said on changes in the second half. “They were getting a lot of pretty easy looks just because we were maybe a step slower or caught ball watching a little bit… so just locking into those changes.” 

Mayo’s late free throw came courtesy of Dingle at the end of the third, her fourth foul of the game. In foul trouble, she was stuck to the bench for nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Neither team was able to pull away from the other, with the Minutewomen fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their slim lead. 

Philoxy swished a triple to give UMass a 74-73 lead with 2:52 remaining and force a Fordham timeout. Dingle responded with a bucket shortly after, but Fordham’s Kaitlyn Downey fouled out with 1:06 remaining and Breen sank both free throws to retake the lead with just over a minute on the clock. Dingle gave Fordham the lead again but Breen sank a putback shot to give UMass back the lead again with 32.1 seconds left. 

Anna DeWolfe hit a jumper with 23 seconds left, but it was Mayo’s bucket seconds later that was the final basket of the game.

UMass will travel to George Mason for an away game on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Breen named Hammon POTY semifinalist

For the second consecutive season, Sam Breen finds herself in elite company on the 2023 Becky Hammon Player of the Year semifinalist shortlist. 

The Becky Hammon award, presented by Her Hoops Stats, honors the best players from mid-major programs. Breen is the lone Atlantic-10 player to earn a spot on the list this season. The five finalists will be announced in early March, with the winner getting named near the end of March. 

“In my opinion, she's the best player that has ever played here, hands down. She's special. And even though I had a couple choice words for her today during the game, I'm taking it all in. Because you look at everything that she's accomplished, and it's been super special,” Verdi said. “For her to be recognized – she should be. I think she’s one of the best basketball players in the country.”

The nine other semifinalists are McKenna Hofschild (Colorado State), Abbey Hsu (Columbia), Keishana Washington (Drexel), Yvonne Ejim (Gonzaga), Kiki Jefferson (James Madison), Alex Fowler (Portland), Myah Selland (South Dakota State), Dulcy Fankam Mendijadeu (USF) and Desi-Rae Young (UNLV). 

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