UMass cruises past South Dakota State 81-63

Minutewomen advance to semifinals in Florida

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Caitlin Mott/Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

For all 40 minutes of play on Friday morning, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team had complete control of South Dakota State, dropping an 81-63 win in the first round of the Florida Gulf Coast Showcase.

With four players in double figures, UMass (6-0) put on both an offensive and defensive clinic from start to finish.

“Great win for us, great win for the program,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We just beat a team that has been where we want to go … I thought that today we out worked them for 40 minutes, out played them, we out executed them, and we were faster to the ball.”

Midway through the third quarter, the Jackrabbits (2-4) didn’t let the early Minutewomen lead phase them and managed to hit a 3-pointer, make a stop, and then hit another from behind the arc to show some life.

The quick turnaround for South Dakota with under seven minutes to go put the game back into reach for a few minutes. By the four-minute mark however, UMass was back up by 20.

Amidst the dominance from the Minutewomen all game, the ability to eliminate the only close comeback that the Jackrabbits had all game showed high levels of maturity and game awareness.

“I thought defensively, [that] was probably our best performance collectively as we just really contained dribble penetration,” Verdi said. “And then our activity level, always getting a hand on the ball, getting deflections and then getting steals and run outs and scoring.”

In that same quarter, Destiney Philoxy had a wild lay-up off the glass but fought for the rebound and secured the extra possession. By the end of the game, UMass had 23 to South Dakota’s six when it came to second chance points and out-rebounding the Jackrabbits by 39-22.

Philoxy, whose lefty high arc wind up doesn’t always bleed through the stat sheet for the Minutewomen, rained success from downtown with three 3-pointers on the day and finished with 11 points, two assists, and two rebounds.

Philoxy started the game with an early 3-pointer from deep. Then, off a steal, had a zigzag give-and-go with Sydney Taylor which ended with a wraparound pass in Taylor’s hands for the easy conversion.

Taylor, who led the team with 23 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and going 3-of-8 from downtown once again contributed on both sides of the ball. Taylor faked from her usual lethal top of the key spot but instead recognized the defender sprinting to close out and euro stepped into an underhand layup. Midway through the second quarter, Taylor connected on her first triple of the game as Shavonne Smith ran back down the court with one hand up, celebrating the start of what was Taylor’s hot hand from the 3-point line.

While almost every player in a maroon and white jersey contributed high-level effort on both ends of the floor, Sam Breen and Ber’Nyah Mayo’s clean-up crew mentality created many second chance opportunities. Mayo, who had five of the Minutewomen’s 10 points with less than five minutes in the opening quarter, finished with 10 points, four boards and two assists.

Taylor snuck an unexpected pass to throw off her defender and put the ball in Mayo’s hands who drove to the hoop, but the ball circled out. As South Dakota pulled down the board, Mayo cleanly poked the ball from behind to dish to Angelique Ngalakulondi for a layup that put the entire UMass bench on its feet.

Plays later, Taylor once again rewarded Mayo with a pass that managed to secure the two points herself by shielding off her defender for a classy layup with contact.

Breen, who finished with 19, going 9-of-20 from the field and hitting a 3-pointer of her own, continuously secured her own boards when the first attempt missed, hitting numerous second chance layups. After a misfire from Taylor, Breen secured the board and a nice shuffle pass once again gave Ngalakulondi two more underneath.

With a high success rate eliminating second chance opportunities for South Dakota, UMass created lots of transition basketball, something Verdi is a fan of.

Mayo and Breen displayed textbook guard-to-forward chemistry when Mayo fed a running Breen on the fly, for easy uncontested buckets.

At the half, the Minutewomen had only given up 26 points but had 37 of their own.

“A total team effort for us defensively and I think that when you see and watch us play, we are so unselfish,” Verdi said.

In addition to the showcase by Taylor, Philoxy, Breen, Ngalakulondi and Mayo, Smith and Makennah White chipped in five and two points respectively. White had nine rebounds to mirror Breen’s nine boards and Smith added in four rebounds to go with her five points.

“That is winning basketball, right now we are just trying to tell our players they need to understand that they can be special, and they need to understand the quality of win we just had here today,” Verdi said.

UMass is right back at it Saturday for the semifinals to play the winner of UCLA vs Kent State.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Lulukesin.