Sam Breen comes up clutch in 69-66 win against St. Louis

Breen shoots 5-17 but makes important buckets in the closing stages


Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian

By James DiLuca, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team found itself in a battle against St. Louis that was poised to come down to the wire. With a minute to go the Minutewomen (17-5, 5-3 Atlantic 10) held a 63-59 lead but suffered a defensive breakdown that allowed Ciaja Harbison a look at a wide open three. Harbison made UMass pay for its mistake as she calmly buried the triple.

Holding on to a one point lead the Minutewomen took their time on offense working the ball around. With the shot clock dwindling down the ball found Sam Breen on the right wing. Breen decided to put her head down and drive to the basket. The forward muscled in a righty layup that put the Minutewomen up by three with 47.7 seconds to go.

After Saint Louis (6-13, 2-5 A-10) worked the ball inside to get a quick layup, UMass again went to Breen, this time in the post. This possession saw Breen, who stands at 6-foot-1, post up the taller Brooke Flowers, who is 6-foot-5. Despite giving up a few inches to Flowers, Breen got right to her spot and opted for a fallaway jumper just inside the free throw line. The shot caught the front rim but took a UMass bounce and fell in.

Before hitting those two crucial shots, Breen was shooting just 3-15.

“At the end of the day you got to go with your best player,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “And that’s what we did … I thought [Breen] did a really good job down the stretch.”

Breen came out of the gate looking to be aggressive against the Billikens and had some offensive success in the first quarter. Breen connected on a mid-range jumper that was UMass’s first basket of the game. Later in the quarter Breen showed off her left hand as she hit a running lefty hook shot over the outstretched arms of Flowers.

Unfortunately for the Minutewomen, Breen went ice cold and did not score again until the 7:20 mark of the 4th quarter. Breen also ran into a bit of foul trouble as with just under four minutes left in the third quarter she picked up her third foul which forced her to spend the remainder of the frame on the bench.

Despite the shooting struggles and second half foul trouble Breen still proved to be a difference maker. Along with timely baskets in the fourth quarter, Breen had a career high seven assists, to go along with nine rebounds and three steals.

“Sam was trying to figure out how to score over [Flowers] in stepping away from the basket and shooting some fadeaways,” said Verdi. “All those [shots] went in last time we played them in the A-10 tournament, unfortunately they didn’t go in today.”

Breen does not usually play the role of facilitator, but she was able to set up her teammates effectively in the half court and in transition. Breen and Philoxy showcased their chemistry as Breen was able to set up her point guard for open jumpers on three separate occasions.

Breen had the potention to finish out [Saturday’s] game with a triple-double as she recorded her seventh assist of the game with 7:06 to go in the third quarter.

Even though her offensive production might not have been as potent as it typically is, Breen still displayed why she is one of the best players in the A-10.

Breen and the Minutewomen will take the court again on Wednesday, Feb. 9, in a road matchup against St. Bonaventure.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected]