Sam Breen, UMass women’s basketball shake off rust at La Salle

  • Sam Breen scored 25 points, as the UMass women’s basketball team won its fifth straight game. The Minutewomen beat La Salle 78-61 on Sunday in Philadelphia. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2021 7:01:34 PM

Three weeks of rust took the UMass women’s basketball team eight minutes to shake off in a 78-61 win Sunday at La Salle.

The Minutewomen, who last played Dec. 13, trailed the Explorers by multiple possessions for most of the first quarter in Tom Gola Arena. La Salle (3-5, 0-2 Atlantic 10) was sharp after facing Rhode Island on Friday, making four out of its first five shots.

Kate Hill pushed the Explorers’ lead to eight with a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 42 seconds left in the first quarter that made it 17-9.

“I thought we were a little sluggish,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “We weren’t executing the way we’re capable of.”

UMass’ defense settled in first, and the Minutewomen (6-1, 2-0 A-10) embarked on a 12-2 run. Destiney Philoxy splashed a 3 to give UMass back the lead 21-19 with 1:52 let in the first. La Salle went 4:40 without a basket during that stretch.

“Our players knew personnel,” Verdi said. “We want to be disciplined defensively, we want to be solid.”

The teams exchanged jabs for the first six minutes of the second quarter, as the lead changed hands five times. Then Maddie Sims splashed a jumper with 3:47 to halftime that put UMass up 30-29. The Minutewomen never trailed again.

La Salle tied the game once more, though. Molly Masciantonio drained a 3 to knot the score at 34 in the first half’s final 90 seconds, and UMass sophomore Sydney Taylor committed a foul with the shot in the air. That gave the ball back to the Explorers with a chance to retake the lead.

Claire Jacobs traveled, wasting the opportunity and returning the ball to UMass. Taylor made two free throws to put the Minutewomen ahead 36-34 at halftime, and they never looked back.

Senior Sam Breen sparked a third quarter where UMass outscored La Salle 25-18. She scored 10 of her game-high 25 points in the frame. Breen also grabbed 13 rebounds and four steals while playing all 40 minutes.

“I  worked on post moves a lot over break, like a lot a lot,” she said. “I think that helped being able to add some different moves and footwork into the post presence, as well as adding my pull up game, which I didn’t have at all last year.”

She combined with Sims (15 points on 7-of-11 shooting) to help the Minutewomen dominate the paint. UMass outscored La Salle 38-22 down low and outrebounded the Explorers 42-32.

“We looked at their personnel on the floor at that particular time and took advantage of them. We want to post them up and get them high percentage shots,” Verdi said. “Any time you get the inside game established, it helps the guards out on the perimeter because everyone’s worried about the inside.”

Ber’Nyah Mayo and Philoxy benefited. Mayo, a Delaware native playing close to home in Philadelphia, had 13 points and shot 85.7 percent from the field. Philoxy set a career high with 10 assists and added eight points and eight rebounds. 

“Destiney is incredible. She finds the open person almost every single day,” Breen said. “We’ve been feeling bad that we haven’t been finishing that extra basket to give her the 10th assist. I’m super happy she hit 10 today.”

The Minutewomen pushed their lead to double digits, 53-43, with a Makennah White layup 19 seconds into the fourth quarter. It grew to 17 in the final minute. UMass held La Salle to nine points in the fourth quarter.

The victory was UMass’ fifth in a row and ties them for second in the conference at 2-0, a half game behind Davidson.

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

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