UMass outlasts Harvard in 80-71 win

The last time the Minutewomen beat Harvard was in 1990

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Shilpa Sweth/ Daily Collegian

By James DiLuca, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team faced off against the Harvard Crimson on Friday night for the first time in nearly six years and came out victorious in a gritty, hard-fought game. Both teams had issues with turning the ball over as Harvard racked up 19 turnovers, while the Minutewomen had 17.

“How you beat Harvard is you have got to out tough them,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “I told my team, how do you out tough a team? It’s not like you go out there and you want to fight them, it’s about making winning plays … it’s about rotating over and picking up charges … Destiney [Philoxy’s] three charges, that’s out toughing your opponent.”

UMass asserted itself on the glass as well, out rebounding Harvard 52-34. The Minutewomen hauled in 22 offensive rebounds, compared to the Crimson’s 13.

Despite a shaky shooting performance throughout the first three quarters the Minutewomen found its groove in the fourth, shooting 8-of-15 from the field. Early in the fourth quarter Sam Breen set the tone for the UMass offense, scoring a layup out of the post off a Philoxy entry pass.

On UMass’s next offensive possession, Philoxy again went back to Breen in the post. This time Breen buried a fadeaway jumper cutting Harvard’s lead to two with just under nine minutes to go in the game.

Breen also hit a pivotal 3-pointer that put UMass up, 69-65, with three minutes to go in the fourth. UMass’ star forward finished the game with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while shooting 9-of-18 from the field.

After a slow start, shooting 3-of-10 from the field, Sydney Taylor added 17 points for the Minutewomen offense.

“If you’re a shooter you can’t stop, regardless if you’ve missed a couple” Verdi said. “At times [Taylor} got tired, so I think that’s why she passed it up … I was really proud of her effort here tonight as well.”

With Harvard up by two at halftime, UMass came out of the locker energized as they began the second half with an 8-0 run. The run was capped off by the Minutewomen running the break, as Breen grabbed a rebound off a Harvard miss, and then immediately looked to push the ball in transition. On the fastbreak, Breen set up Taylor with an easy layup as UMass went up 47-39 with 7:33 to go in the third.

However, Harvard did not go away easily as the Crimson closed out the 3rd quarter with an 18-7 run.

Harvard’s Lola Mullaney caught fire from behind the arc hitting three triples in a one minute and 38 second span that lasted from eight minute to seven minute mark in the second quarter. The UMass defense was able to key in on Mullaney, as outside of the Harvard’s sharpshooter scoring burst in the second quarter, the guard went just 2-of-11 for the rest of the game.

“You got to identify [Mullaney],” Verdi said. “We knew what they were going to run, but they just do a great job of spreading you out, they run a lot of five out motion, and it’s a lot of cuts… their ability to shoot the three is unbelievable, and I knew coming into this game what we were going to see, and we saw it.”

Guards Ber’Nyah Mayo and Philoxy both stuffed the stat sheet, as Philoxy scored nine points to go along with nine assists and six rebounds. Mayo had 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and six steals on the game.

“I’m just here to do whatever my team need’s me to do,” Mayo said. “I was out of the game and [Harvard] had gotten four offensive rebounds, so I told myself when I get into the game, I’m just going to crash the boards hard.”

Philoxy had a lackluster shooting game going 3-of-9 from the field but stepped in a big way down the stretch with 3:00 to go in the game. The 5-foot-7 guard drove to the basket and was met in midair by Havard’s Harmoni Tuner. Turner’s foul didn’t prevent Philoxy from scoring as she was able to absorb the contact and laid the ball high off the glass with her left hand.

Philoxy completed the three-point play, knocking down the free throw. This put UMass up seven and gave them enough breathing room for the rest of the game.

The Minutewomen will look to continue their winning ways as they host Iona next Tuesday at 7 p.m.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected].