Minutewomen reliant on top veterans in win against La Salle

Destiney Philoxy and Sam Breen led the way, playing 35 and 40 minutes, respectively

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Nina Walat/Daily Collegian

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

With top scoring option Sydney Taylor only scoring seven points on 1-8 shooting, it would seem that the Massachusetts women’s basketball team (6-1, 2-0 Atlantic 10) rode their bench to a 78-61 victory over La Salle (3-5, 0-2 A-10) today. That was not the case, however, as the bench combined for just nine points in 33 minutes, which was less playing time than either Sam Breen or Destiney Philoxy. Those two combined for 34 points, 21 rebounds, and 13 assists, with Philoxy posting a career-high 10 assists in a near triple-double performance.

“Destiney does a great job, especially in transition, just pushing and attacking and creating for herself and everyone else,” head coach Tory Verdi said of her role as one of the offense’s main catalysts. “[She’s] played a lot of games here in her early career, she understands my expectations, and she’s a really valuable piece to what we’re doing here.”

In addition to doing all the little things that push UMass towards victory, such as drawing offensive fouls—two today—the junior guard is second in the country with an average of 8.6 assists per game. Breen, who doesn’t care about her own individual stats, said they were pushing for Philoxy to get to double digit assists late in the contest.

“We had been feeling bad because we hadn’t been finishing that extra basket to get her that 10th assist, and I’m just super excited that she hit 10 today,” said Breen postgame. “She’s an incredible playmaker, [she] finds her teammates, and obviously she can score the ball too.”

Breen, who is no stranger to scoring the ball herself, finished with a team-high 25 points on the afternoon. However, she had to play the entire game to get there despite a matchup against conference rival Rhode Island ahead on Tuesday.

“I can’t worry about the URI game, [and] we had to win today,” Verdi said of his decision to play Breen for 40 minutes with the quick turnaround. “Sam’s strong enough, she’s been through it enough, so I’m not concerned whatsoever.”

Even in a blowout, Breen having to play the whole game was neccesitated because of Taylor and the bench’s lack of production. As mentioned earlier, the second unit was held to single digit scoring and were not efficient in their shots, either. The three players to come off the bench – guards Madison Lowery and Desiree Oliver and forward Makennah White – were held to 33 percent from the field.

“Hopefully we have others that we’re going to continue to work with and implement them into the game plan,” Verdi said of the rest of his rotation being more involved offensively going forward.

The only frontcourt player to come off the bench was White, who played 10 minutes. With only eight players hitting the court, it was surprising to not see center Maeve Donnelly make her season debut, who was expected to return after being out with a concussion. But Verdi trusts his rotation and his players to follow through when they are counted on.

“She may eventually see the floor for us, and we’ll have some others out there, as well,” Verdi said of a potential return for Donnelly to the rotation. “Our bench is deep, and I’m sure that in the coming days, we’ll play more people, especially with the [URI] game [two days] away.”

Now 2-0 in A-10 play, the Minutewomen will look to stay undefeated in the A-10 against Rhode Island on Tuesday. Tipoff in Amherst is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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