UMass makes history with 21st win after defeating Fordham 60-57

Minutewomen set new record for wins in a single season

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Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

By Michael Araujo, Collegian Staff

Sam Breen finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds as the Massachusetts women’s basketball team made a furious charge late on the way to a 60-57 come-from-behind win against Fordham. This win marks its 21st on the season and sets the new program record for wins in a single season.

Trailing by as many as fifteen, UMass (21-5, 9-3 Atlantic 10) outscored Fordham (16-7, 7-4 A-10) 37-21 in the second half. Instead of playing into Fordham’s hands and throwing up bad shots, the Minutewomen continued to pour it on in the fourth quarter and work their way back into the game – one possession at a time.

“We just needed to settle down and it was hard to settle down because they came out and they ambushed us from the get-go,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We kept reminding them during timeouts: one possession at a time. One possession at a time. Chip away at it, chip away. Slowly but surely, we did.”

Breen, the double-double machine, recorded her 16th double-double of the season, but her game got off to a bit of a slow start. She was active on the glass in the first half of play, garnering eight rebounds, but was shooting 2-for-11 from the field. She shrugged off the rough first half and led the charge in the second, shooting 8-for-12 the rest of the way.

Breen had assistance from the backcourt pair in Ber’Nyah Mayo and Destiney Philoxy. Philoxy finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and was the vocal leader on the court. Mayo tallied eight points, eight rebounds and three steals, two of which came in the final three minutes. Both led by example, and perfectly balanced the team.

The momentum shifted in UMass’ favor after Breen kicked it out to the corner mid-shot to a wide open Philoxy who drilled the corner 3-pointer. The pivotal play turned it into a one-possession game and put the Mullins Center on their feet. Minutes later, with a one-point lead, Mayo’s active hands showed up at the most critical time for the Minutewomen. Mayo wrapped around Heremaia, poked the ball loose and was off to the races. Leading the fast break, she delivered a one-handed hook pass to Breen for the easy two.

“[Philoxy] hit a big three from the corner,” Breen said. “That energy kinda carried the whole rest of the game.”

Fordham’s Anna DeWolfe was the Minutewomen’s primary defensive focus coming into the game, but it was Kendell Heremaia who gave them problems. Heremaia got off to a hot shooting start instantaneously and finished with a miraculous eleven 3-pointers.

“Our biggest thing was not giving her wide-open looks,” Breen said. “If she’s going to hit tough shots with a hand in her face we’ll have to live with that because what else can you really do.”

Regardless of Heremaia’s big shooting night, UMass stuck to its guns and did not alter its defensive game plan. As a result, the scheme worked to perfection down the stretch.

“We weren’t gonna, you know, all of the sudden just start reaching,” Verdi said. “We weren’t gonna go and throw in a box-and-one. We’re not gonna do that and get away from what [we] do. Then you become dysfunctional and players don’t believe and it breaks down and then [we’re] done. We just needed to do what we do and do it better.”

The Minutewomen’s courage was rewarded as they held Fordham to six points on 2-for-21 shooting in the fourth quarter.

UMass ends its three-game home stand undefeated and will look to extend its six-game win streak on the road versus Davidson on Sunday at 12 p.m.