UMass women’s basketball caps off undefeated December with dominant 86-43 victory over Southern Connecticut State

Minutewomen tie Duquesne at the top of the Atlantic-10

By Richard Rodgers, Collegian Staff

There was never any doubt for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team in its final home matchup against Southern Connecticut State before conference play begins. The Minutewomen dominated in all facets of the game in what was arguably their most impressive win of the season thus far.

UMass (10-3) built a 41-22 lead at halftime behind dynamic offensive performances from senior guard Vashnie Perry and junior forward Sam Breen. Instead of taking their foot of the gas to begin the second half as we’ve seen them do previously this season, the Minutewomen outscored Southern Connecticut State (7-5) 25-8 in the third quarter en route to a dominant victory.

“We asked our players to really end the game coming out after halftime,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “I thought we did a great job of taking it right to them and making them quit.”

The efficiency numbers told the story of the game about as well as any other statistic. The Minutewomen shot 50 percent from the field while the Owls shot a measly 23.6 percent. From beyond the arc, UMass was solid at 32 percent while SCSU was at 20 percent.

The standout performance of the game unquestionably came from Breen who exploded in her Rupp Arena debut after recording 8 points and 9 rebounds on Saturday at Iona. She had 28 points and 11 rebounds shooting 11-19 from the field and 4-5 from beyond the arc.

“I thought Sam played as good as who I thought she would be for us,” Verdi said. “I’m really excited about her because I saw a lot of good things from her. Obviously, this game gives her a lot of confidence. She adds depth to our post position. We saw her ability to score from the get-go. It’s the reason that we were excited to get her.”

Breen transferred from Penn State after the Fall 2018 semester and has been waiting to return to the court for a year and a half. If she continues to score like she has on all levels, her value to the team will be immeasurable. She clearly put her time off to good use.

“I treated practices as my game days and obviously we have a lot of practice so there were a lot of game days for me,” Breen said. “I used those to try to make my team and myself better knowing that I was going to get on the court eventually.”

Perry was the other standout performer with 16 points, 8 assists, and 3 rebounds shooting 7-11 from the field. Her ability to score on all three levels at the guard position was necessary in overcoming the injury absence of starting sophomore guard Destiny Philoxy. When Philoxy returns, her speed combined with Perry’s crafty and methodical style will continue to create a formidable combination.

“Ever since break, Vash has come in with the mentality of doing something really special,” Verdi said. “We need that leadership from her. She understands how important her role is and she’s done an unbelievable job.”

Junior guard Paige McCormick also added onto her impressive season recording her first career double-double. She had 13 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. On the season, she’s averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game as she continues to improve.

“Paige has played a lot of basketball for us and she’s playing really good basketball right now,” Verdi said. “For her to have her first career double-double, it says a lot. She’s shooting the ball well and she needs to continue to do that for us.”

With conference games on the horizon, UMass seems to be hitting its stride at the perfect time. They’ll need to keep up their high levels of defensive energy and offensive versatility in order to remain strong against formidable opponents.

The Minutewomen will look to remain firing on all cylinders when they enter conference play on the road against Duquesne on Saturday. The winner will sit alone at the top of the A-10 for the time being.

Richard Rodgers can be reached at rrodgers@umass.edu or followed on Twitter @RichardDRodgers