Sam Breen, Sydney Taylor stand out in UMass’ Thanksgiving Classic Championship win

Breen has 43rd career double-double

Dylan+Nguyen+%2F+Daily+Collegian

Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Jessica Galvin, Collegian Staff

With five minutes remaining in the game, Sydney Taylor caught a cross-court pass from Destiney Philoxy to drill her fifth 3-pointer of the game. The Massachusetts women’s basketball team’s head coach Tory Verdi pumped his fist and clapped as Taylor watched the ball go in and ran back down the court to defend.

“It was just really good basketball,” Verdi said. “We were able to drive, collapse the defense, kicked it out and made the extra pass. We created, we shared the basketball and it was the right basketball play to make.”

Going 5-for-10 from 3-point range, Taylor had 25 points against Florida International University Sunday afternoon in the Thanksgiving Classic Tournament in Miami, Florida. She was also just one rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards and tied her career high, enough to grant her tournament MVP honors. Graduate student and Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Sam Breen got her 43rd career double-double, and third of the season, with 26 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 2-for-3 from 3-point land. She was selected to the All-Tournament Team.

The pair was key in the holiday tournament. In Friday’s game against Drake, Taylor put up 29 points and Breen had 19, both players also grabbing 6 rebounds each. Now tournament champions, they combined for 99 points and 32 rebounds in just two games, Taylor with 54 points and Breen with 45.

“Just [Taylor’s] ability to score allowed us to keep that distance as far as score wise,” Verdi said. “When things were going well, we were able to get Sam some really nice looks around the paint and we were pounding the ball inside.”

The Panthers (2-3) defense seemed to get the Minutewomen (6-1) shaken up in the second quarter, leading to 11 turnovers in the first half. Taylor had six in the game but kept composure and contributed on both sides of the floor in the 95-78 win.

In her sophomore and junior seasons, Taylor averaged 15.6 and 15.9 points per game, and currently averages 19.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. After recently scoring her 1000th career point in a win against UMass Lowell, Taylor continues to show she is a consistent force on both sides of the court and can step up her game to the next level. Her 25-point night was also her fourth consecutive game with 20 or more points.

Breen ranked first in the A-10 in double-doubles last year with 17 and second in rebounds per game with 10.1. Averaging 17.4 points per game in her career thus far, she has been the Minutewomen’s leading scorer the past two seasons and continues to lead UMass to tough wins. In her team-leading performance against FIU, she earned her fifth game with double-digit points this season.

Verdi emphasized he wanted his team to get the ball in the paint as much as possible. Both Breen and Taylor contributed to the 58.1 percent field goal percentage with Breen going 11-16 and Taylor 9-18 from the field, despite also being dangerous from behind the arc.

“We had 48 points in the paint and that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” Verdi said. “We wanted to pound the ball inside and we wanted our guards to attack the rim, and we did that and obviously led to our win.”

Jess Galvin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jessgalvin1.