UMass overcomes sloppy basketball to win 71-53 over UMass Lowell

Minutewomen turn the ball over 20 times on the road

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

LOWELL, Mass. – Makennah White splashed her first career 3-pointer from the left elbow and head coach Tory Verdi cracked a smile as White pointed to her bench— who immediately erupted in celebration of the forwards outside touch.

The smile was a long time coming for Verdi, who spent most of the game locked into a blood bath between the two Massachusetts schools, with his Massachusetts women’s basketball team playing a sloppy first half.

As history does repeat itself, like last year, UMass Lowell (0-5) gave UMass Amherst (4-1) a strong fight in the first two quarters. But the Minutewomen preserved in the latter half, to pull away with a 71-53 win on the road, taking the Kennedy Cup Challenge back to the 413.

White had 16 points on the day, a bright spot alongside Sydney Taylor who had a team high 25, including her 1000 point but in a game where UMass was far from its best.

“I’m happy that we won the game, extremely excited that [Taylor] got her 1000 point … not happy about how we played,” Verdi said. “We have to be better … I just felt that we weren’t cohesive, you look at how sloppy we were … we didn’t play well, we still won by 18 points but disappointed from a basketball perspective.”

The third quarter was the fire to light the initiation for the eventual UMass lead, but Lowell didn’t burn out despite an improved offensive outlook coming out of halftime.

Sam Breen stripped the ball from Lowell, feeding Ber’Nyah Mayo who was incomplete on the layup attempt but grabbed her own offensive board to draw a foul. On the inbound, Angelique Ngalakulondi set Mayo up to cleanly take the two-point bucket. Taylor then hit a crisp corner triple in front of the UMass bench to build on the burst of energy coming out of the gate.

Like most of the night went, it was one step forward and three steps back for the Minutewomen. The small run was interrupted when a layup revealed a miscommunication on defense as Ella Ner’s lay-up was practically uncontested by multiple defenders. Breen missed her typical mid jumper but was able to collect the board on a second chance. The next play down, another UMass turnover.

Even when forcing the River Hawks to turn it over, the Minutewomen missed easy lay ups to capitalize.

“We knew [Lowell] would turn the ball over 23, 25 times, they have been, for whatever reason we thought ‘we’re going to match it,’ … we can’t do that, we are trying to break out and get one legged layup on change of possession and we are turning the ball over. Really sloppy,” Verdi said.

A team total of 20 turnovers plagued the entire first half of play, with sloppy offense and lack of chemistry failing to kick start any beneficial run on the offensive end. Nine turnovers alone appeared in the opening quarter, with Breen contributing to the negative stat. White subbed in for Breen early, unlike most games where the graduate student plays nearly the entire 40 but upon return, Breen sank a triple.

Breen had an unusual single digit game, with just nine points but snagged 11 boards for the positive stat. Destiney Philoxy had 13 points, including two made free throws midst a yelling River Hawk fan that sent her shushing the crowd, but had seven turnovers with three carries.

With 1:32 Laila Fair got her first official minutes for UMass, following her only appearance in the exhibition game. Fair has been day to day battling an injury since the start of the official season.

White’s triple brought attention from the Minutewomen bench, but her layups turned to be more valuable. With 7:40 to play in the fourth, Philoxy dribbled it in but failed to connect, White grabbed the offensive board and hit the clean-up crew layup for two, making the lead 55-37 in favor of her own. She finished with five total boards. In the second quarter, she had a stare down block on the River Hawks that went out of bounds. On the next play, Lowell turned it over.

Verdi was clear to state he thought this was his team’s worst game of the year so far.

“There is definitely stuff we can learn from this but I do think it’s something we have to move past and focus on the next game,” Taylor said. “More energy, urgency.”

UMass heads to Miami to participate in the FIU thanksgiving classic with a Friday afternoon game against Drake scheduled for 2 p.m.

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