UMass women’s basketball wants to find itself again vs. Davidson

  • Sam Breen and the UMass women’s basketball team have their eyes set on conference-leading Davidson, which visits the Mullins Center at 5 p.m. Friday. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • The UMass women's basketball team is now acknowledging Black victims of police violence on its pregame shooting shirts. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS—THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2021 8:04:12 PM

The team that lost to Rhode Island on Tuesday wasn’t UMass women’s basketball, at least not the real UMass women’s basketball.

They didn’t play or try like the Minutewomen do. In the quick turnaround between that loss and Friday’s 5 p.m. date with conference-leading Davison, UMass worked on reintroducing the team that won the previous five contests.

“We’re going to play our game, and I feel like that was our problem: we didn’t play our game,” UMass junior guard Destiney Philoxy said. “(Friday) we’re going to do what we do best, be UMass basketball instead of trying to be someone else.”

UMass (6-2, 2-1 Atlantic 10) posted its lowest-scoring game of the season against the Rams. They’ve scored more in two first halves. It’s the lowest point total for the Minutewomen since a 50-47 loss at George Washington on Jan. 26.

“I want to see us be resilient and bounce back. We’ll find out a lot about our character,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “You can’t allow what occurred in the last game to affect you in this game. We’ve got to put it behind us and move forward.”

There wasn’t a lot of time to dwell. UMass had Wednesday off then practiced Thursday. Friday’s matchup against the Wildcats is UMass’ third of four games in just eight days.

“Having a day off allowed us to decompress and catch our breath a little bit. The loss the other night, it hurt them. They’re really disappointed,” Verdi said. “We led the game for 38 plus minutes and came away from it with a loss. The one thing we need to learn from that is it’s not always going to be easy. The other night, we needed to grind it out.”

Ending Davidson’s six-game winning streak won’t be easy, either. It’s the Wildcats’ longest unbeaten run since 2013. Davidson is averaging 71.3 points per game during the streak.

“We’ve got some mature players who have been through it,” Davidson coach Gayle Fulks said. “They understand the preparation and how every game is its own beast. I’m really proud of them for this.”

Friday’s matchup will feature two of the A-10’s top scoring teams in No. 3 UMass (72 points per game) and No. 4 Davidson (70.9) and top scoring players in UMass’ Sam Breen and Davidson’s Chloe Welch. Breen is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, while Welch scores 17.6 per contest.

“They have a lot of weapons. You’re not throwing junk (defense) or anything at them,” Fulks said. “I think we’re two of the more explosive teams, offensively, in our conference.”

Davidson (6-3, 3-0) wants to run and shoot 3s. The Wildcats rank 17th in the country with 232 attempts from beyond the arc. They make 8.7 triples per game and shoot 33.6 percent as a team.

“The transition 3 is their strength, so we cut that off and try to change their game like Rhode Island changed ours,” Philoxy said.

The Minutewomen will have to pay particular attention to Welch. She’s made the second most 3s in the A-10 (19, behind UMass freshman Sydney Taylor) and shoots 40.4 percent from deep.

“You’ve got to do a great job of containing her. All five people need to defend her,” Verdi said. “When the ball’s in her hands, she’s thinking score. We should be loaded up and help should be there. If you give her space, she’s going to pull the trigger.”

PREGAME STATEMENT – UMass debuted new pregame shooting shirts on the road at La Salle on Sunday that said “Black Lives Matter” on the right shoulder and #SAYTHEIRNAMES on the back before listing the names of Black victims of police violence. The front of the black shirt read Massachusetts Basketball in front of an illustration of a hoop.

They were designed by Philoxy and redshirt junior Desiree Oliver.

“I wanted it to be something different. I feel like most schools have Black Lives Matter on their shirts, but are they really supporting it or are they having it just to have it?” Philoxy said. “We wanted to have their names on their back and show it’s more than just a movement. We care for every person who has passed to police violence and violence overall.”

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


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