Freshman Makennah White stars off the bench as UMass beats Fairfield 71-50

White recorded her first career double-double in the victory

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

In just the third game of her collegiate career, freshman Makennah White had 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Massachusetts women’s basketball team beat Fairfield 71-50. Also contributing to the victory for UMass (2-1) were bona fide scorers Sam Breen and Sydney Taylor, who combined for 41 points and five three-pointers. Those three outscored the Stags (0-1) by themselves as Fairfield shot just 27 percent from the field in the contest.

“I just wanted to come in off the bench and contribute as much as possible, and my teammates trusted me in giving me the ball inside,” White said. “To get that double-double, all [the credit goes] to my teammates.”

Two of the biggest reasons UMass was taken down by Boston College on Sunday were because of (1) not being able to control the paint, and (2) being severely outrebounded throughout the contest. Those two trends were reversed tonight after head coach Tory Verdi made an emphasis on those areas in practice throughout the week. The Minutewomen had 12 more rebounds than the Stags and outscored Fairfield 30-8 in the paint.

“We wanted to pound the ball inside, and we did that,” said Verdi. “We wanted to go high-low against [Fairfield’s] zone, and we did that, and I thought that our front court players did a really nice job.”

White, who took Verdi’s points to heart before the game, was the epitome of the team’s command in those two areas. Her 11 rebounds were a team-high for the contest, while many of her looks came in the paint, enabling her to get to the free throw line three times as well.

“Rebounding – that’s something that we talked about that we needed, and she brought that here today,” Verdi said of the Pennsylvanian’s performance. “She didn’t look like a freshman, and I think that she’s just scratching the surface.”

One of the reasons for White’s breakout performance today was the playmaking ability of junior guard Destiney Philoxy. Although she turned the ball over five times, Philoxy was constantly feeding her on the low block, resulting in a team-high nine assists.

“It’s outrageous,” White said of Philoxy’s ability to set up her teammates. “She’s a phenomenal player, so they have to respect her drive, they have to respect her shot, and that opens up a lot for the post players. She’s always looking to dish it off, and [for her to] just have that trust that she has in me builds my confidence and makes me a lot better.”

Beyond the dynamic scoring duo of Breen and Taylor and the versatile veteran Philoxy, it is obvious within the first few games that the Minutewomen are very deep at both the guard and forward spots. The guard rotation features Madison Lowery, a certified sharpshooter from deep, along with Desiree Oliver, who can create opportunities in isolation and off the dribble. The frontcourt group consists of White and senior Maddie Sims, both of whom can defend, rebound and score if needed – not to mention sophomore Maeve Donnelly, the team’s leading shot blocker from last season, who is set to return soon after missing the first three games due to a concussion.

“I think that is going to be an asset for us,” Verdi said of the team’s depth. “We have a ton of depth in the front court, and I just like where we are [there]. We have the ability to play multiple guards and go a little bit smaller if we want to, as well.”

Now 2-1, UMass will look forward to a near week-long break before heading to Durham to take on the New Hampshire Wildcats next Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Freeman Alfano can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @freemanalfano.