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

Success in the final seconds puts UMass over Saint Louis, 69-66

Minutewomen battle back to pull out A-10 win
Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian

Foul shots and clutch shooting.

With two Atlantic-10 powerhouses like Saturday’s contest saw, it was going to be the little things that ultimately made the difference between who went home with the win.

After a first quarter run put the game in Saint Louis’ favor, it was the Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s effort and execution till the final minute that gave UMass (17-5, 5-3 A-10) the 69-66 win at home.

With 38.5 seconds left in the game, Brooke Flowers’ layup made it a one-point game and forced head coach Tory Verdi to call timeout. With just eight points on the day at that moment, the ball was sent into Sam Breen’s hands, who used as much clock as she could to score with 13.8, pushing the lead to three. The last thing the Minutewomen needed was a 3-pointer or foul on a lay-up, but Peyton Kennedy was able to draw Makennah White into forcing contact and hit the two-pointer.

Now down one point with 10 seconds left, Kennedy’s free throw rimmed out and landed in Breen’s lands who fed Destiney Philoxy to take the foul from the Billikens (6-13, 2-5 A-10.) The ball went from the ref’s hands to Philoxy’s and into the net without a dribble, twice. Philoxy’s 100 percent from the line with eight seconds to go punched the final ticket to pick up the win at home.

“That’s what they do,” Verdi said of Breen and Philoxy’s clutch shooting. “They’ve been here before, both of those guys have made big baskets for us down the stretch but stepping to the line and knocking those down were huge. That’s difference between winning the game and losing the game and we made enough plays down the stretch to fortunately win the game here today.”

As clutch as Philoxy’s all around effort was on the day, her opponent mirrored. Ciaja Harbison worked Philoxy from start to finish, showing up in big moments every time the Minutewomen caught fire. With just under four to play, Ber’Nyah Mayo threw to Angelique Ngalakulondi on a pick and roll who gathered the risky pass just in time to put it up for the layup. The five-point lead diminished 11 seconds later when Harbison’s 3-pointer barely moved the net, securing her 24th point of the day, making it a two-point game. Unlike previous contests, Philoxy’s offensive success didn’t take a whole half to heat up and instead, the two guards standing at 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-6 respectively traded baskets and defensive stops all game long.

“I thought they battled,” Verdi said of the match up. “I thought they probably got the best of each other at times no question about that. Harbison is one of the best … her mid-range game is ridiculous … they were going back and forth a little bit. Both those guys are competitive, it was a great match up and we will see it again.”

Harbison finished the game with 27 points, going 11-for-21 from the field and 60 percent from downtown. Philoxy finished with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting, 33.3 percent from downtown and 60 percent from the charity stripe.

After Philoxy sank the free throws, she sprinted to face guard Harbison under UMass’ basket, refusing to allow anything easy from Saint Louis’s catalyst.

“When I sprinted up, I thought ‘she cannot score anymore, she’s been scoring all game’,” Philoxy said. “I just couldn’t let her get the ball at the time. We talk here and there during the game; we make little jokes. I have a lot of respect for her, she is a great player, and she has a lot of respect for me … me and her are going to go at it regardless.”

UMass fell back into old habits in the first quarter of play, with Saint Louis dominating the offensive end. Harbison commanded the floor form the start, with two baskets to draw first blood for the Billikens. Even with Minutewomen shifting over to help on defense, Saint Louis found a way to finish at the rim. Harbison needed nearly no room to assert herself as a lethal threat from the elbow jumper or with hard fought layups under the rim.

After a perfectly executed defensive performance, an unlucky bounce under the rim put the ball back in the hoop for the Billikens, followed by an empty trip on the other end for UMass. Sydney Taylor was able to get herself going in the first quarter, bunching back at the Saint Louis early lead but little mistakes left the Minutewomen down 23-16 after one.

Taylor played dynamic basketball from tip off till the end, attacking the basket on all cylinders. Notably, in the fourth quarter she managed to score with three blue shirts in her face, then nail a 3-pointer in front of the UMass bench. She finished with 22 points on 10-for-19 from the field. Taylor had two 3-pointers and eight rebounds.

The Minutewomen flipped the switch in quarter two, turning what was once a Harbison show into an all-around effort led comeback to end the half up five. Philoxy came into Saturday morning extra energized, capitalizing on the extra pep in her step with a sidestep jumper to open quarter two. Mayo met her energy on both ends, stealing the ball and taking it coast to coast forcing head coach Lisa Stone to call timeout.

Philoxy’s defensive assignment didn’t let up throughout the second but neither did her lockdown performance. On a Harbison elbow jumper, Philoxy met her in the air to block her shot which allowed Michelle Pruitt to step in and draw the charge. Shortly after, Mayo made an eye-popping steal on the baseline to keep the ball in play then took it herself to the hoop for two. Once Mayo and Philoxy found a rhythm combined with Taylor’s early shooting, it was a new game.

UMass won the rebounding battle despite the height disadvantage, 42-36. Flowers, White and Breen each had nine rebounds and Mayo chipped in nine points.

The Minutewomen hit the road for a Wednesday night game against St. Bonaventure. Tip off scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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