After quick recovery, the Minutewomen prepare for tough Villanova squad Friday night

The Wildcats are led by unanimous All Big East First Team Selection Maddy Siegrist

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Brian McWalters / Atlantic 10 Conference

By Freeman Alfano, Collegian Staff

Coming off the heels of more than 150 minutes played in four days, the starting lineup of the Massachusetts women’s basketball team got a much-needed break on Monday.

That rest, however, was short lived after they found out they made the Women’s National Invitational Tournament that evening. Still, senior Sam Breen’s excitement from the past few days, between the Atlantic 10 Tournament run and the WNIT selection, has made her numb to her body’s soreness.

“I thought [the pain] was going to hit me, and it still hasn’t,” Breen said on Tuesday. “I think the adrenaline and everything just really helped, I haven’t felt it yet and we have two off days to regroup and get our bodies back together.”

The same cannot be said of Destiney Philoxy, the do-it-all point guard who consistently laid her body on the line throughout the tournament despite high-minute totals.

“Every charge I took, every hustle play I made, I can feel every single bit of it,” Philoxy said. “My body does hurt… but I guess those two days off did help a lot though, so [they] gave me time to recover and take care of my body.”

Coming off those 48 hours of rest, Breen, Philoxy and the rest of the Savage 7 have to get ready for a competitive Villanova squad. The Wildcats (15-6, 9-5 Big East) were one of the best rebounding teams in the Big East this season, something UMass (14-7, 7-5 A-10) has struggled with at times, and held their opponents to under 30 percent on three-point attempts.

Despite playing in a more competitive conference, Villanova has a very comparable offense to the Minutewomen. They averaged 0.8 points per game less than UMass this season on one percent worse shooting. The Wildcats were also undefeated in two matchups against Saint John’s University this season, and while the Minutewomen were also perfect against them, they squeaked out their only victory on a last second buzzer beater by Breen.

“Most of us on the team [have] watched Villanova play before,” Philoxy said. “We’ve watched what they [can] do, and me and Sydney [Taylor] watched them against Saint John’s, so we know a little bit about them. We know that they’re a team full of shooters, and we’re going to have to play out on them… we’re going to be prepared for them though, by Friday.”

One of those shooters is a similar player to Breen in forward Maddy Siegrist. The sophomore averaged more than 22 points per game this season on 48 percent shooting to go along with 10 rebounds en route to a unanimous All Big East First Team selection. With Breen taking the load on the offensive end and the glass, much of the responsibility in defending Siegrist will fall on the other UMass frontcourt options.

“We’re going to take advantage of our length and some of our size,” Head Coach Tory Verdi said of how UMass plans to stop the skilled sophomore. “I think Angelique [Ngalakulondi] has done a tremendous job, but both her and Makennah [White] will try to anchor our defense. We’re going to make [Siegrist’s] touches hard and try to crowd her.”

Something making this preparation for Siegrist and Villanova even more difficult is the quick turnaround they have faced after returning from Richmond. Once their rest period was over, the Minutewomen essentially only had one day of practice to get ready for the Wildcats before their flight to Charlotte on Wednesday. Yet Verdi, with the hecticness of the A-10 Tournament fresh in his mind, knows this team will be prepared for the challenge.

“It’s going to be a whirlwind,” Verdi said of the upcoming experience. “Everything that we got to cover [has to be done] in the next 24 hours, and then we get our team on the court… but what I can tell you [is that] our team will be prepared to the best of our abilities, and I’m very confident in that.”

Tipoff in Charlotte is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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