UMass women’s basketball pulls away from Harvard to improve to 2-0

  • UMass senior guard Destiny Philoxy drives against Harvard on Friday at the Mullins Center. She finished with nine points and nine assists. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETIC

  • UMass graduate student forward Sam Breen had 21 points and 12 rebounds against Harvard on Friday at the Mullins Center. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass sophomore guard Ber’Nyah Mayo collected her second double-double of the season Friday against Harvard at the Mullins Center. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/12/2021 9:20:29 PM

AMHERST – UMass had one more run than Harvard.

A McKenzie Forbes 3 tied the game for the Crimson with 3 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. The Minutewomen then outscored Harvard 14-5 to pull away for an 80-71 victory Friday at the Mullins Center.

Graduate forward Sam Breen hit a 3 with 3:44 left to make it 69-66 UMass. Destiney Philoxy followed with a floating double clutch layup through contact. The junior guard then made the free throw to complete the three-point play.

After a Forbes jumper – she scored the Crimson’s last eight points – Breen responded with a layup from an offensive rebound, and the Minutewomen closed making 6-of-10 free throws to put the game away.

“We did the same thing last year. We keep our composure, and we play our game,” Philoxy said. “They were hitting shots, we were hitting shots, but we knew we could all four quarters.”

It was UMass’ first victory over Harvard since 1990, snapping an eight-game losing streak. The Minutewomen last started a season 2-0 in 2017, but that included a regular-season victory over Maine Fort Kent, who is not even an NCAA member. UMass last started 2-0 against two Division I teams in 2007.

“How you beat Harvard is you out tough them. We knew exactly what we were going to get,”  UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “It’s not like you go out there and you want to fight them, it’s about making winning plays.”

Philoxy (nine points, nine assists, six rebounds) drew three charges. Sophomore Ber’Nyah Mayo saved a ball out of bounds off a Harvard player with 6:39 left and a four-point lead. She corralled the ball in mid air and threw it in one motion.

“I was doing what my team needed me to do, make hustle plays and play hard,” Mayo said.

Mayo notched her second consecutive double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. That was after leaving the game early in the first with a sprained ankle. While she was out, UMass gave up four offensive rebounds on one possession, so Mayo re-entered the game determined to rebound better.

“It goes to show you her competitive sprit, and I’ve loved it,” Verdi said. “I saw that when I recruited her. She is little, but she is mighty. I’m not sure anything fazes her.”

Breen also kept her composure in her first double-double of the year (21 points, 10 rebounds). Breen picked up her third foul 3:38 into the second half. She had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists but needed to sit.

Verdi kept her on the bench for nearly three minute. Harvard outscored UMass 8-3 during that stretch and cut a six-point deficit to one. Breen didn’t pick up a foul the rest of the game and scored seven of UMass’ final 14 points to close out the game.

“I tell Sam ‘don’t get in foul trouble,’” Verdi said. “She gets a little excited sometimes. You’ve got to give her credit, she still went to the boards. She did a great job managing her foul situation.”

Sydney Taylor also reached double figures for the second consecutive game and hit four 3s.

Harvard scored the game’s first six points. The Crimson led by as many as nine points with 3:20 until halftime. But the Minutewomen never let them get further away than they could catch.

“Overall we were so systematic. What a tough game, the adversity that we faced,” Verdi said. “We never folded. We just continued to grind away.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

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