UMass women’s basketball steamrolls St. Bonaventure to advance in A-10 Tournament

Minutewomen tie program record for wins

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Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Thomas Haines, Sports Editor

A dominant first half was more than enough for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament Tuesday night, as a 45-16 lead at halftime became a 72-54 win over St. Bonaventure.

Hosting the first round of the tournament for the first time since 1998, UMass (20-10, 9-7 A-10) tied the program record for wins in a season with 20 and advanced to the A-10 quarterfinals in Dayton this weekend.

“At some point in time I’ll look back and I’ll decompress and look at everything as a whole, but the way we’re playing right now is the way I envisioned this program would be,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said. “The University of Massachusetts, I want fans to be leaving the Mullins Center going, ‘Wow, those kids play extremely hard. They’re fun to watch, their fight.’ I want people to recognize that.

“That was my vision of this program, just outworking our opponent on every single possession, and it’s happening,” Verdi continued.

The Minutewomen rolled in the first half, shutting down the Bonnies (7-23, 4-13 A-10) from the opening minutes and forcing turnover after turnover to spark an unusually dynamic offense. With UMass firing on all cylinders, St. Bonaventure looked overmatched for the first 30 minutes.

“We felt it, we saw it – there’s a different vibe,” Verdi said. “I’m not saying in the regular season, in conference season, our kids weren’t excited to play, but there’s another level. I can’t put my finger on it, but you can just feel it. You sense it, you feel it.”

The Minutewomen faltered in the third, shooting just 2-of-16 from the field and allowing the Bonnies to get within 20. But the early deficit was far too much for St. Bonaventure to overcome, and a return to form in the fourth quarter for the Minutewomen ensured the win.

UMass was able to spread out the scoring, with four players finishing in double digits. Sam Breen led the way with 16 points, notching a double-double with 11 rebounds on the night. Hailey Leidel, Destiney Philoxy and Maeve Donnelly all cracked double digits for the Minutewomen as well.

“We were moving the ball offensively, everyone was attacking and we were clicking on all cylinders, playing selfless,” Verdi said. “That’s the way you play the game of basketball. Knocking down those shots helped us with our momentum, and getting stops helped us on offense as well.”

The Minutewomen were even more impressive on the defensive end, holding the Bonnies to just 27 percent shooting in the first half and forcing 16 turnovers by the game’s end. Perry led the way with three of UMass’ nine steals, and St. Bonaventure was only able to get going with the game out of hand.

“Our defense, we came out ready to play on both sides of the ball, and obviously that showed in the first half,” Breen said. “That want-to and drive carried in, and no one was fazed.”

With the win, the Minutewomen will face the winner of the matchup between George Mason and Saint Louis on Friday in Dayton.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @thainessports.