UMass women’s basketball emerges victorious in A-10 quarterfinal against Fordham, 66-63

Minutewomen move on to the A-10 semifinals

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Greg Fiume / Atlantic 10

By James DiLuca, Collegian Staff

WILMINGTON, Dela. — With just 14 seconds to go, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team clung on to a four-point lead as Fordham looked to get a quick score. The Rams (18-10, 8-6 Atlantic 10) got the ball in the hands of their point guard Asiah Dingle who launched a high arcing three that found the bottom of the net with just eight seconds to go. With the score 64-63, UMass (24-6, 11-4 A-10) inbounded the ball to Ber’Nyah Mayo who was immediately fouled by Kendell Heremaia.

Mayo, a 58 percent free throw shooter, stepped to the line with a chance to force Fordham to have to tie the game on a 3-pointer. Despite being a poor foul shooter, Mayo stepped up in a big way for the Minutewomen as she calmly knocked down both free throws.

“The one thing about Ber’Nyah is she is just steady,” UMass head coach Tory Verdi said. “She’s never too high or low…nothing gets her rattled, she’s just poised and she’s ultra-competitive.”

With just eight seconds left and no timeouts remaining Fordham had to advance the ball across half court and hope to get a look from deep. Again, the ball found Dingle in the clutch, but this time she could not convert as her last-ditch heave fell short.

The Minutewomen had to fight an uphill battle for most of the game as Fordham took a 30-23 lead into halftime. Out of the break both teams came out with energy as the squads traded baskets for the first few minutes of the third quarter.

Fordham was able to assume its largest lead of the game after Kaitlyn Downey connected on a 3-pointer. On the Rams’ ensuing offensive possession Anna Dewolfe missed a three but Fordham was able to secure the offensive rebound which lead to a Heremaia jumper. With the Rams now up 11, UMass called a timeout.

Out of the time the Minutewomen went on an 11-2 run that was capped off by Destiny Philoxy setting up Angelique Ngalakulondi inside for a layup. Ngalakulondi was fouled by Downey but she absorbed the contact and laid the ball in. Ngalakulondi would complete the three-point play as with 3:57 left in the third UMass only trailed by two.

Sam Breen who was recently named A-10 player of the year got off to a slow start for the Minutewomen as she had just two points on three shots in the first half. Breen was able to turn it around in the second half as she finished the game with 18 points, along with hitting an extremely clutch shot in the last minute of play.

With UMass up two and the shot dwindling down Breen caught the ball on the wing and drove right with Dingle closely guarding her. Breen then stepped back and nailed a 15-foot jumper from along the baseline to put UMass up four with 32 seconds to go.

“I was really just thinking I can’t get a charge because [Dingle] is shorter than me ,” Breen said of the play. “The step back was the answer.”

For Fordham, Dingle and Downey carried the offensive load as they were the only two Rams in double figures. Dingle scored 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. Downey shot an efficient 9-of-15 from the field as she racked up 24 points and seven boards. Five of Downey’s makes came from 3-point land.

Sydney Taylor added 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting and Philoxy scored 13 while dishing out seven assists and five rebounds.

Anna Dewolfe, Fordham’s leading scorer who entered Friday averaging 18.3 points per game, shot just 4-of-19 while scoring eight points. Defensively UMass has been successful in slowing down Dewolfe as in the regular season matchup between the teams Dewolfe shot 5-of-22 from the field.

“Dingle demands the ball in her hands a lot and it takes a lot of what they do away from Anna Dewolfe,” Verdi said. “We just wanted to do a great job of containing dribble penetration and contest threes.”

UMass will take the court again tomorrow at the Chase Fieldhouse to face off against St. Joseph’s in the A-10 tournament semifinal. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m.

James DiLuca can be reached at [email protected].