Makennah White anchors UMass’ balanced scoring attack

White with 10 points and four rebounds off the bench

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Greg Fiume / Atlantic 10

By Michael Araujo , Collegian Staff

WILMINGTON, Dela. — As the final quarter of basketball came to a close, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team saw its hot shooting start rewarded with a substantial 76-58 win over Saint Joseph’s (13-17, 7-8 Atlantic 10) in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. Enjoying the fruits of their labor, the homestretch was chock-full of fun basketball.

Makennah White was all smiles in the final minutes. She was UMass’ (26-6, 11-4 A-10) main and only source of points off the bench, posting 10 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting, and tallied four rebounds and two assists across 23 minutes of game action. With 12 seconds left, White spun around and swished a fadeaway jump shot at the top of the key to get the UMass bench and the entire Chase Fieldhouse on its feet for the victory celebration.

Of White’s four rebounds, three were collected on the offensive end. A minute into the second quarter, White rose to grab a missed 3-pointer and punched home the put back shot, shrugging off two defenders who tried to get in her way. The second effort increased the Minutewomen lead to seven and were two of the team’s nine second chance points.

“[White] was great,” Sydney Taylor said. “She always comes in with a ton of energy that we feed off of. Her impact, her defense, her rebounding. It was amazing and it helped us win today.”

With Taylor getting into early foul trouble, she remained scoreless in the first half. White stepped up and was able to hold down the fort just long enough for Taylor’s 20-point resurgence in the second half. When Taylor got hot late, White fed the hot hand which led to a strong driving layup for Taylor to extend the lead to 16.

Standing at 6-feet-2-inches, sophomore White is equipped with a versatile defensive skillset, and is more than capable of holding her own while guarding smaller players. While most post players would find themselves in mismatch situations when defending a guard, White stands her ground and does the dirty work.

“We were switching off screens and [White] does a great job of sitting down in a stance and defending guards,” head coach Tory Verdi. “We wanted to match [Saint Joseph’s] physicality. I thought that Saint Joseph’s was really trying to throw [Talya] Brugler the ball and also Laila Fair.”

Last time these two teams faced off, it was a lopsided 74-48 victory in favor of the Minutewomen. The Hawks frontcourt in Brugler and Fair combined for 13 points. On Saturday, Fair paced her team with 16 points to go along with five rebounds and three blocks, while Brugler was close behind with 14 points while also racking up nine rebounds in a near double-double.

White’s ability to adapt to whatever circumstance Saint Joseph’s threw at UMass was a crucial component to the team’s win today and was in large part the reason why Verdi gave White more minutes over the team’s starting power forward, Angelique Ngalakulondi.

“[White] is a lot more physical [than Ngalakulondi],” Verdi said. “We wanted that. We wanted her energy, as well. It’s coupled with her energy, her want to, her communication and her defense. That’s what kept her out here today and she did a fabulous job here today for us.”

White’s deceptively quick for her height, but she also has the strength to set brick wall screens on opponents and create open opportunity shots for her teammates.

“She’s always doing whatever [she can],” Sam Breen said. “I know she tried to take a charge. She’s trying to do the little things which always helps. Calling double, calling single when I have it in the post and she’s doing all the little things that really help. She was finishing really well today.”

UMass advances to the championship game of the A-10 tournament, where it will face the No. 1 seeded Dayton Flyers Sunday at 2 p.m.

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