UMass able to hold off VCU down the stretch in 55-49 win

Despite a streaky offensive performance UMass found a way to win

By James DiLuca, Collegian Correspondent

Sometimes basketball is a game of runs, and tonight’s game against VCU proved that statement to be true.

UMass appeared to find their offensive stride early on as the Minutewomen (9-2, 5-1 Atlantic 10) went on a 17-0 run in the first quarter. The Rams (6-6, 4-1 Atlantic 10) then responded with an 18-4 run of their own to even up the score at 25 with 4:03 to go in the second quarter.

Both teams would continue erratic play on the offensive end throughout the remainder of the game.

“I think we were trying to play really fast at times like we always do,” forward Maddie Sims said. “They weren’t throwing anything at us that we weren’t prepared for, we expected them to make runs, but we just had to fire back.”

Sam Breen and Sydney Taylor provided a much needed offensive bright spot, combining for 34 points and an efficient 13-of-25 shooting. Sims chipped in with a near double-double scoring eight points to go along with eight rebounds.

Excluding Breen and Taylor, the rest of the Minutewomen shot just 6-of-24 from the field. UMass had very little production from the bench, as the starters were the only ones to score.

“That’s what [Breen and Taylor] do, we know that they can score points.” said head coach Tory Verdi. “We expect to get a little bit more production from our bench. If it happens great, and if it doesn’t, we have people put in position to make plays. I’m really proud of our team, our effort, and if someone is having an off day I expect whoever else to step up and help out.”

On the defensive end UMass played lights out holding VCU to just 29.7 percent shooting from the field and 14.3 percent shooting from three. This outstanding defensive effort allowed for UMass to keep the Rams offense at bay, when their own offense was struggling

Despite the offensive inconsistencies, the Minutewomen were able to score timely baskets which helped to slow down VCU’s momentum

Guard Destiney Philoxy had a bit of an off-night shooting, scoring just five points on 2-for-6 shooting. However, she was able to break a 3:28 scoring drought in the third quarter by converting a huge and-one layup, which put the Minutewomen up 35-28 with 6:21 to go in the third quarter.

UMass entered the fourth quarter with a 43-30 lead, but had its lead cut to just five points with 3:13 to go in the game. With the momentum swinging toward the Rams, UMass was able to break VCU’s full court press as Sam Breen found Sydney Taylor for an open layup which put the Minutewomen up by seven.

These plays were crucial as they gave UMass just enough breathing room and gave their offense some life.

Down the stretch, the Minutewomen had a couple costly turnovers but they were able to knock down clutch free throws late in the game. Guard Ber’Nyah Mayo hit four free throws in the last 40 seconds to seal the game for UMass.

With this win, UMass moves into second place in the Atlantic 10 with a record of 5-1 in conference play.

The Minutewomen will look to win four in a row as they will play at Richmond at 1:00 PM on Sunday.

James Diluca can be reached at [email protected].