UMass takes down A-10 foe VCU in 72-60 win on the road

Wednesday game was UMass’ first in 21 days


Caitlin Mott/ Daily Collegian

By James DiLuca , Collegian Staff

The past three weeks have been a tough stretch for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team as it fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team had to enter health and safety protocol and spent substantial time away from basketball. Tuesday marked UMass’  first full practice in nearly three weeks as it prepared for a six day stretch in which it will play three games.

Despite dealing with the virus and limited practice time the Minutewomen delivered an impressive showing against Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday, coming up with a 72-60 win against the reigning Atlantic 10 champions.

“It’s been a really tough three weeks,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “Nobody knows how tough it is unless you’re really in it … the players knew … the coaches knew. For [the team] to come out and respond and play the way they did today shows you their character and who they are as players.”

UMass received an outstanding performance from Sydney Taylor as she turned in a career high 32 points on 12-21 shooting while knocking down six three pointers. Guards Destiny Philoxy and Ber’Nyah Mayo both reached double figures with Philoxy scoring 13 and Mayo adding 11.

Sam Breen had an uncharacteristic quiet game, scoring just seven points on 3-11 shooting. Breen also struggled at the foul line, nailing only one of the six chances. The forward looked to impact the game in other ways as she hauled in nine rebounds and dished out five assists. The Rams had a double team on Breen for most of the night, which opened up scoring opportunities for the other four players on the court.

With just under four minutes to go in the game the Minutewomen appeared to have control as a Destiny Philoxy left-handed layup put UMass up by 13. However, VCU began to cut back into UMass’ lead when the Rams began to apply full court pressure. After a Sarah Te-Biasu layup VCU was down just seven with 2:32 to go in the game.

The Minutewomen’s ensuing offensive possession was stagnant and with the shot clock winding down Verdi opted to call a timeout.

Out of the timeout Breen inbounded the ball to Taylor. With just eight seconds on left on the shot clock Taylor wasted no time getting to her spot as she used a crossover dribble to go straight into a step back to free up space for her shot. Taylor then fired a deep three from nearly 30 feet out that swished through the bottom of the net.

This shot was perhaps Taylor’s biggest of the game as it put UMass up by 10 with two minutes to go and it seemingly took away VCU’s momentum.

“Boy was it fun to watch [Taylor] knockdown those shots, big shots, timely shots,” Verdi said after the win. “It was totally amazing.”

Throughout the first half VCU was able to have its way on offense, as the Ram’s connected on 60 percent of their triples. Taya Robinson put on a jump shooting clinic as she scored 17 of VCU’s 40 first half points. UMass adjusted on the defensive end and out of halftime the Rams went over five minutes without scoring. After a big first half, Robinson went 0-5 from the field in the second half and finished the game with 18 points.

The Minutewomen have dealt with some free throw shooting woes this season and tonight those struggles were highlighted as they shot 40 percent from the foul line.

“We have to do a better job there, especially in the first half where we missed five or six,” Verdi said of his team’s free throw shooting. “We’ve got to knock them down and we will.”

The now healthy Minutewomen will continue conference play as they will turn their focus toward a Richmond squad who is 11-5 on the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected].