UMass tops rival Rhode Island in home opener

Four players in double figures for the Minutewomen

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Collegian Staff

From the opening tip, the Massachusetts women’s basketball took the lead over Rhode Island, and never gave it up. With four players in double figures and strong performances from its guards, the Minutewomen won its first conference game of the season.

UMass (3-1) came out strong from the start, but had to fight off a resilient URI (0-3) team in the second half in order to come out on top.

“Right from the beginning I thought we had great energy and we got a ton of transition baskets,” said head coach Tory Verdi. “Then the game slowed up and became a half-court game. You have to give them credit, but we just didn’t play well offensively, and we have to do a better job there.”

Offensively, Destiney Philoxy, the 5-foot-7 guard fearlessly attacked from all over the floor. The junior consistently drew fouls on layups while also hitting from behind the arch, finishing with 19 points and six assists.

“I thought Destiney Philoxy brought it from start to finish, just her attacking downhill, getting to the rim and finishing, I thought she was terrific,” Verdi said.

Minutewomen guards beat the Ram’s guards off the dribble which allowed for easy points in the paint, even with top front court option Sam Breen struggling to score much of the game. Breen finished with 11 points.

“We normally score a lot more points in the post than we did today,” Verdi said. “We knew coming in that our guards could get downhill and have the opportunities to get to the rim.”

Offensive production from freshman Ber’Nyah Mayo and sophomore Sydney Taylor this afternoon says something about what these guards can do in a pinch.

“It says we have a balanced scoring attack,” Verdi said. “We can score from the perimeter, we can score inside, and we just have to make sure we are doing both. I felt we were limited with our post play inside today.”

After a strong first half in which Philoxy, Mayo and Taylor combined for 31 of UMass’ 43 points, holding a 43-31 lead over URI.

Momentum then shifted away from the Minutewomen in the third quarter.

The Rams’ 6-foot guard Johanna Muzet dominated the third quarter, cutting down the UMass lead to five with just under 2 minutes left in the quarter. After a layup from Muzet out of a timeout, Mayo answered right back with a 3-pointer and an assist to freshman Makennah White to end the quarter.

After a rocky low scoring third quarter for Minutewomen, UMass took care of business in the final quarter of the game.

“We had to just grind it out and that’s what we did,” Verdi said. “We didn’t play our best basketball here today but it’s an Atlantic-10 win. Every single A10 win is hard to come by and I think we did enough to get the win down the stretch, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest of games.”

In addition to securing its first conference win, the Minutewomen won in other areas that won’t show up on a stats sheet.

“Communication,” Philoxy said. “Our coaches are big on communication and these last four months we’ve been trying to get where we are today. Today, I feel like we proved that no matter what team we play against, we are going to talk and get through it. We became a disturbance to the other team. That’s what made us good, that’s what made us win.”

UMass is back on the road Thursday to face New Hampshire at 6 p.m.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Lulukesin.