UMass forges a late comeback, tops UMass Lowell 58-53

Sam Breen finishes with 26 points and 13 rebounds

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Maya Geer / Daily Collegian

By Michael Araujo, Collegian Staff

The successful season of the Massachusetts women’s basketball team continued as it came back from a third quarter deficit to defeat UMass Lowell 58-53 on Sunday.

The level of success UMass (9-1) amounted following its breakout performance in the Gulf Coast Showcase presents new challenges, with teams playing the Minutewomen even tougher due to the significance a win over them would provide. That attitude was especially prevalent in the state rival River Hawks (3-4).

“To [UMass Lowell], this is like their Super Bowl,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We have a bullseye on our back and we gotta show up. You can’t take anybody lightly regardless of who you’re playing.”

Sam Breen put on another impressive showing in the offensive end, shooting 11-for-21 from the field and knocking down her only three-point attempt. She amassed 26 points and racked up 13 rebounds, earning her seventh double-double in only 10 games this season. Her 26 points was a new season-high, three more than her previous tally of 23. She also managed three steals and two blocks.

Angelique Ngalakulondi provided a cushion for the Minutewomen with her offensive rebounding. She nabbed six offensive boards, to go along with her 5 points. Her final stat line could have been much larger as she converted only two of her six shots from the field and made just one of her four free throws. What she lacked in offense, however, she made up for in defense. Ngalakulondi finished with two blocks and two steals, and locked up the paint, allowing zero points down low in the final 7 minutes of the contest.

“I tell her all the time that she’s incredible,” Breen said. “Every time I miss, I know she has my board. She’s always in the right place at the right time, and she always finishes it.”

UML was able to cut into UMass’ early lead by out-rebounding them 25-16 in the second and third quarters. The River Hawks’ seven offensive rebounds led to six second chance points and put the Minutewomen in a hole on the scoreboard.

The Minutewomen fought through their rebounding woes and empty offensive possessions and successfully crawled out from a nine point hole late in the third quarter. Sophomore Ber’Nyah Mayo got the crowd involved after losing her defender with a behind-the-back dribble and putting some English on the ball to spin it off the glass and into the hoop.

Junior sharpshooter Sydney Taylor got in on the action as well. After reclaiming the lead halfway through the fourth quarter, Destiney Philoxy drove to the basket and kicked out to a wide-open Taylor who splashed a three from the corner. The trio of Mayo, Taylor and Philoxy delivered a collective 21-point effort for UMass.

The Minutewomen’s ability to fight back against adversity and dig into big leads was showcased against No. 13 Iowa State, where UMass turned a 21-point deficit into a one-point game before falling 76-71.

“Our goal is to win a championship, and I’ve been preaching, ‘you gotta be consistent’,” said Verdi. “We’ve shown that we can play with the best teams in the country, but then there’s other games where we look like we don’t belong. That’s where we need to grow.”

The  Minutewomen host rival Boston College Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as they look to push their win total to double-digits.

Michael Araujo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Araujo_Michael_.