Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sam Breen’s blanket effort guides Minutewomen to victory on Wednesday

Breen records sixth double double on the season with 22 points and 16 rebounds
Maya Geer / Daily Collegian

Before Destiney Philoxy could finish pronouncing the “M” in “Sam,” the ball had left Sam Breen’s fingers and rocketed into Philoxy for the corner dagger 3-point shot, knocking off Fairfield’s (3-4) final chances at a close game on Wednesday.

Breen was halfway down the court by the time the ball went in the hoop, confident that Philoxy would make the shot and smiling at the look on the faces of the Massachusetts basketball team.

After the Stags crept back into Wednesday’s contest toward the latter half of the final quarter, it was crucial that momentum carried the Minutewomen (8-1) until the final seconds. By the time the ball landed in Philoxy’s hands from Breen, Breen had put up 22 points on the night. After five double double performances, her sixth came through in the first half, but impacted the entire game. What could have been point 24 for Breen after taking the Stags’ defender to the basket was instead Philoxy’s fourth 3-pointer. That individual play represented the broader impact Breen had on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t just Breen who had the hot hand, and she recognized that.

“It was a lot of inside out,” Breen said. “We would hit inside and not really look at the 3-point line, but when people are wide open on the 3-point line you can’t not pass them the ball.”

The game plan, according to Verdi, was to attack the interior with Breen and Makennah White posting up and creating opportunities for themselves down low. Once Sydney Taylor found success with an early 3-pointer, things began heating up from behind the arc.

“[Breen] had a lot of good looks flashing to the high post…instead of shooting it she wanted to all of a sudden work on her assists, so we did have a conversation about that during one of the timeouts,” Verdi said.

In order to provide and capitalize on the opportunities the Stags were giving the Minutewomen from behind the arc, Breen needed to transition into a scorer.

So Breen joined in on the fun from downtown.

Off a pass from Mayo, Breen snagged her first triple of the night, carrying the same shooter’s touch from the final minutes of Sunday’s game into the first few of Wednesday’s. Just under seven minutes into the second quarter, she hit her second of the night. After 40 minutes played, Breen ended with a 4-for-7 stat line from deep and went 9-for-21 from the field.

“I think I’ve said this since she arrived here on campus, at the end of her career I think she is going to be one of the best players ever to put on a Minutewomen jersey,” Verdi said. “I think she is one of the best scoring forwards, best forwards in the Atlantic 10 alone. To know that we are going to get that point production from her each and every single night is great.”

With a physical team like Fairfield, no record indicated how smoothly the campaign between two skilled teams would go. Knowing that a zone defense may eliminate its stealthy offense ultimately benefited UMass. Despite Fairfield almost mirroring UMass’ success from 3-point range, the Minutewomen out-rebounded Fairfield 55-23 and Breen had 16 of those rebounds herself. But when UMass’ 19-point go ahead lead turned into a nine-point game with too much time on the clock, the Minutewomen had to regain focus.

UMass had the ball out of bounds and drew a play for Taylor, but the misfire sent Breen crashing to the boards in attempt to draw a foul. No whistle was called, but the extra effort put the ball in Angelique Ngalakulondi’s hand on Breen’s miss and sent her to the line for two.

The Stags answered right back in the face of Breen with a 3-pointer from Lou Lopez-Senechal.

With seven seconds on the shot clock and the countdowns echoing through Mullins, Breen’s off balanced almost one-handed jumper extended the lead 70-59, forcing Fairfield to call timeout with just under two minutes to play.

“We know they are going to go on runs so [we] just have to stay composed and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that, even our older players and our younger players,” Breen said.

Once UMass broke from the timeout, the Stags only got one more layup on the night.

The Minutewomen stay at home to take on UMass Lowell on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.

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

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