Araujo: Takeaways from UMass’ 77-57 exhibition win against Assumption

Destiney Philoxy’s injury and rebounding struggles stand out

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Maya Geer/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Michael Araujo, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team returned to action on Sunday when it hosted Assumption for an exhibition match at the Mullins Center. UMass took care of business, winning 77-57 against the Division II university. Here are some of the takeaways from that game:

Destiney Philoxy inactive and wearing a walking boot

Destiney Philoxy did not suit up for the exhibition game and was seen wearing a walking boot. The injury occurred in practice earlier that week when Philoxy allegedly rolled her ankle.

“[Philoxy’s] day-to-day,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “I expect her to be in the lineup come next Monday.”

While it is encouraging that Philoxy will not appear to miss any time, it is unclear if the injury will affect her moving forward. Philoxy will have eight days to heal up before UMass’ regular season opener on Monday when the Minutewomen host Central Connecticut State for a 5 p.m. tipoff.

“We want to make sure that it heals fully, and it is,” Verdi said. “We just didn’t want to agitate it by rushing her back. Didn’t make sense to do that here today.”

Rebounding woes

UMass added some additional height to its roster in the offseason, acquiring 6-foot-5-inch junior forward Piath Gabriel from UConn, and adding 6-foot-2-inch Laila Fair from conference foe Saint Joseph’s. Even with the added length, the Minutewomen were outrebounded by the Greyhounds, 40-39. The two forwards combined for just seven rebounds, in the game where Fair started and played 25 minutes, with Gabriel playing 17.

“We missed [Ngalakulondi] and [Makennah White],” Verdi said. “Regardless of who’s on the floor, you got to box out and you got to go after the ball … Just seeing a lack of effort. I guess everyone was just kind of waiting for someone else to go and do it but you can’t do that. You can’t win that way. We’ve been really good in the past because we’ve been disciplined, and we weren’t doing that here tonight and there’s no excuses for it. Whether you are a guard or a post it doesn’t matter.”

When asked about why the team’s two key rebounders in Ngalakulondi and White did not see the floor tonight despite being dressed, Verdi called it a “coach’s decision.” It’ll be interesting to see if Fair gets the starting nod on opening night, or if Verdi will continue last season’s trend of having Ngalakulondi start.

Sam Breen, Sydney Taylor and Ber’Nyah Mayo are good at basketball

If you have not heard by now, let me be the first to tell you: Sam Breen, Sydney Taylor and Ber’Nyah Mayo are good at basketball. The trio accounted for 53 of UMass’ 77 total points scored.

Breen got a double double, grabbing 15 boards (three offensive) on top of putting up 29 points on 11-for-18 shooting. Besides hitting one 3-pointer, Breen dealt most of her damage on the interior, showcasing her footwork to find success in the post.

Taylor got most of her 21 points from the way she usually does: from long range. Taylor had four 3-pointers made, but also flashed a euro step that had her defenders lost as she finished two wide open layups in the second half. She also had six assists.

Mayo stepped into the role of point guard and filled the position with success. While her numbers on the stat sheet weren’t eye-popping, Mayo led her team by example: taking charges, hustling for loose balls and intercepting passes. Her effort on Sunday gave UMass some much needed continuity from last year’s winning ways, which helped guide her team to a win. Mayo was also vocal and could be heard talking to her teammates during possessions, an arena Verdi said she has improved in.

“When [Mayo] first got on campus, she barely talked,” Verdi said. “Now she’s running an offense and running a team at the point guard position. She’s grown and has taken unbelievable steps. I’m so proud of her and her development.”

Taylor played all forty minutes of the game, while Breen and Mayo were off the court for just a minute each.

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