Chaos ensues on opening night, but Ber’Nyah Mayo remains calm

Mayo facilitates crucial offense to lift UMass

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian (2022)

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

It may not have been Ber’Nyah Mayo’s best game; scoring wise the junior point guard only had six. However, in an opening night contest where first game jitters spurts of chaotic offense and leisurely defense ensued, Mayo’s calmness remained.

While Sam Breen quietly neared a career high with 31 points and eight boards and now graduate co-captain Destiney Philoxy chipped in 15, Mayo found both of their hot hands at crucial moments to stretch the lead when the Minutewomen needed it most.

Out of halftime, following a bleak offensive showing for UMass, Mayo grabbed the defensive rebound to find a sprinting Philoxy down the floor for an easy two. The Minutewomen lost the board battle handily — especially in the first half — but Mayo prevented that from continuing right into the latter quarters. Building off that momentum, Mayo recognized that her teammates were tightly guarded down the floor and Central Connecticut State was slow to help, so she took the ball coast to coast herself to add to the lead.

In a game where no team had a comfortable lead for a majority of the first three quarters, UMass needed all the help it could get with second chance efforts. The Blue Devils stretched out the Minutewomen’s defense by perimeter passing and a much higher 3-point percentage on the night. With just under seven and a half to play in the quarter, Mayo slid over to help on the low block and got a tip on the cross-court pass. The deflection forced CCSU to throw a sloppy pass that led to a no chance 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired.

Not long after, in the waning minutes of the third, Mayo once again saw that the Blue Devils were lackadaisical in their transition defense, so Mayo took it from the opposite end of the floor for another wide open two points.

What UMass needed in a game with little 3-point success was simple basketball, and on defense that energy sparked quality offensive opportunities. Mayo herself couldn’t connect from behind the arc on four attempts but finished with six points, five assists and five rebounds.

“Just because the ball isn’t going in the hoop doesn’t take away from everything else she is doing,” Breen said. “She facilitates, runs the point, finds her open teammates and picks pockets on defense, always [being] in the right spots.”

Breen had highlight reel moments all game but with less than five to play, Mayo drove to draw multiple defenders and dish to Breen for the off balance and one that got the UMass bench going. Breen’s 3-point play off Mayo’s unselfish assist stretched the lead to 13.

Mayo kicked off the game with a very true to character steal on the low block, after switching the screen with forward Makennah White and picking off what would have been a mismatch under the basket. Mayo recognized a few plays later the speed of Forever Toppin and played enough off the ball where the guard wouldn’t blow by her yet managed to stay close enough to draw Toppin in for the offensive foul for Central Connecticut when Toppin extended her arm into Mayo.

With just over seven minutes to go in the sloppy first quarter, Breen fed off Mayo’s energy following the offensive foul call and found White cutting across the low block for a wide open lay up on a sleepy backdoor cut. She finished the second quarter with a skillful display of handles as she ripped through defenders for a layup in traffic.

Mayo and the Minutewomen head to Knoxville to face the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols on Thursday, Nov. 10. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.

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