Sydney Taylor shines in UMass’ win over Fordham

The sophomore guard drops 27 points on Friday night

Brian McWalters/Atlantic 10 Conference

Brian McWalters/Atlantic 10 Conference

By Lulu Kesin, Collegian Staff

Fordham thought it had the last shot to close out the third quarter, but it was wrong. A missed layup fell into Sam Breen’s hand who threw up a pass to Sydney Taylor for a transition layup at the buzzer.

One legged layups are something that head coach Tory Verdi has asked from his team all season long.

“I thought that was the one that literally changed the momentum of the game,” Verdi said of Taylor’s layup. “I think that Fordham thought they were scoring at the buzzer or near. I knew that when Sam got it, I said throw the ball head…I thought that was huge for us. A huge momentum builder for us, it gave us confidence and felt really good about that. We just continued to grind it out from there.”

For Breen, when she grabbed the board, a simple form of communication made for an impactful play.

“I got the rebound, realized there was enough time on the clock, and made eye contact with Syd,” Breen said. “Passed it up, thought I passed it a little too far, she ran it down, hit the layup and that momentum going into the fourth quarter was huge for us.”

As crucial as that layup was for the Massachusetts’s women’s basketball team, Taylor’s dominant performance began two full quarters before the play at the buzzer.

Right out the gate, Taylor went 4-4 from the 3-point line in the first half, giving UMass (13-6, 7-5 Atlantic 10) the chance to hang with Fordham (12-4, 9-2 A-10) who shot equally as well from downtown right out the gate.

Taylor’s ability to shoot from outside has been present all season, but her unique ability to create space with a step back made the difference on Friday. With a swarming Rams defense, Breen found herself being triple teamed at times, and Taylor had equal ball pressure. Once Taylor was able to draw a Fordham guard into her by faking to the hoop, her quick release and separation gave her great looks at the basket.

The last time Taylor dropped 27 points was against Davidson on Jan.8, and on Friday night she had herself another 27-point performance, this time when the season was on the line. Taylor went 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line.

As “seasoned” as Taylor is by starting every game this season, the sophomore played very few minutes in the tournament last year. In the last two games, Taylor showed no sign of fear in her first two playoff games of her colligate career.

The aggressive defense that Fordham had all night couldn’t stop UMass when things began to click. Breen was able to develop a lower post game that prevented the third Rams’ guard from getting a hand in on the ball, and eventually made crucial layups.

When Fordham crashed, Destiney Philoxy and Ber’Nyah Mayo kicked it out to Taylor who was left wide open at times, despite her high percentage from early on.

“I think everyone has their roles and when we do them correctly, we are really good,” Taylor said.

The Minutewomen take on the winner of No. 6 Richmond or No.3 Saint Louis on Saturday. UMass finished the regular season with a win against Richmond and split its back-to-back games against the Billikens in January. This will be the first time UMass has reached the semifinals since 2002, back before some Minutewomen were even born.

Tipoff set for 4 p.m.

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