Minutewomen ready for a guard-heavy VCU attack on Friday

The Rams start four guards that are all double-digit scorers

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Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Collegian File Photo

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

Coming off a successful weekend that culminated in two wins, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team is set to face the Virginia Commonwealth Rams on Friday. The Rams, who have a four-game winning streak of their own, feature a small lineup with four double-digit scoring guards that could present problems for a more standard-sized Minutewomen group.

“We’re getting ready for an undersized, fast, athletic team,” said head coach Tory Verdi of VCU’s (6-5, 4-0 Atlantic 10) strengths. “They utilize their personnel, they want to score in transition, and they do a great job of it.”

But Verdi feels that UMass (8-2, 4-1 A-10), who has started three guards every game this season in Destiney Philoxy, Ber’nyah Mayo and Sydney Taylor, has the personnel to match this quick and nimble bunch. The clearest example of this was last Sunday when the Minutewomen guard rotation limited Fordham sharpshooter Anna DeWolfe, the leading scorer in the A-10 averaging over 22 points per game, to just under her season average on an inefficient 33 percent shooting.

“Destiney was on [DeWolfe], and I thought that was probably one of Destiney’s best defensive games in her three years here,” said Verdi of Philoxy’s performance on that end of the floor this past weekend. “As far as Ber’nyah Mayo… I’ve been extremely impressed with how competitive she is as a player and the things that she’s doing on both sides of the ball.”

At the same time, the Rams are the type of team that could potentially slow down both the playmaking abilities of May and Philoxy, along with their disruptiveness of the defensive end. UMass has the second-best turnover margin in the A-10 (+4.0) behind VCU (4.09), who turn the ball over the least in the conference (14.3 per game) and force the second-most turnovers (18.4 PG) behind the Minutewomen (19.5 PG).

“This is a really good defensive team,” said Verdi of the Rams. “They want to get steals, deflections, and push [the ball in transition].”

That’s not to say UMass and Verdi are scared to face a team like this, though. Throughout the season, they have faced a variety of different strategies from opponents, from Rhode Island’s bully-ball approach to Fordham’s one woman show attack, and have generally come out on top. Based on their track record thus far, the Minutewomen have no reason to think a different result will follow, given they execute their gameplan.

“They need to match up with us, instead of us being so concerned with matching up with them,” Verdi said of his team’s approach to tomorrow’s contest.

UMass is heading to Richmond hoping to dictate the style of play on Friday night against the Rams. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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