UMass women’s basketball wins season opener 72-57 over CCSU

Sam Breen ties career high with 31 points

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team won its home opener against Central Connecticut State University on Monday night by a score of 72-57. Like the exhibition game against Assumption, the Minutewomen (1-0) came out slow in the first half, but picked up steam in the second half to come out on top.

Of UMass’ eventual 72 points, 44 were scored in the second half, with Sam Breen leading the way, scoring 20 of her 31 points in the second half. These 31 points tie a career high for Breen, and the majority of her points came from the post. She added one triple and shot 2-3 from the free throw line.

“We kind of went over that as part of the scout, just knowing I’d be able to get post touches,” Breen said. “I’ve been working a lot more back to the basket the past week just knowing that I’d get a little bit more. Once I realized they weren’t actually doubling me, it opened up a little more.”

Breen’s quiet 31 points were a necessity for the Minutewomen on a day where the majority of the offense had trouble getting going. Her 14-21 shooting helped UMass keep a competitive effort and quality performance from the Blue Devils (0-1) in check. CCSU and UMass remained tied going into the second half, before UMass began to pull away at the end of the third quarter. The rest of the Minutewomen shot a combined 16-42 (38 percent) from the field.

“A win is a win, it wasn’t pretty, but I’m proud of our team,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We grinded it out, and we figured out how to win. There were a lot of things that we were missing here tonight, it wasn’t perfect, collectively we have to do a better job.”

Shooting from the 3-point line was a struggle for UMass on Monday, as it shot 2-16 from behind the arc. Sydney Taylor and Breen were the only two Minutewomen to hit a shot from 3-point land, with Taylor shooting 1-8 from the arc, and 3-13 from the floor. UMass made up for this lack of shot making with suffocating defense, forcing 16 turnovers.

This allowed the Minutewomen to run in transition, drawing fouls from CCSU. UMass shot 13 free throws and hit 10 of them, good for 76.9 percent. Layup making while it was in transition was something that Verdi looks to improve upon.

“I mean, we had 16 missed layups,” Verdi said. “Some of our returners didn’t have their best games, I expect [Taylor] to play a little bit better than she did here today. She was frustrated, she struggled to get it going, but did a really great job late in the second half.”

UMass’ newest addition, Piath Gabriel, made good use of the eight minutes that she saw the court. Gabriel shot 3-5 from the floor, grabbed three boards, and ended as a plus-six, the highest off the bench.

Destiney Philoxy, along with Taylor, provided a steady hand on offense, with them dishing out five and seven assists respectively. Philoxy added 15 points in addition to her five assists, the second highest total on the team behind Breen.

“I thought that [Philoxy], her minutes were really good here tonight,” Verdi said. “She was a catalyst, made a lot of things happen for us, she’s obviously dynamic with her ability to get to the rim and create for other people besides herself.”

Even with the win, Verdi knows from experience that he can get much more out of his team.

“Everyone expects us to be where we were last year, or where we ended, and it doesn’t happen that way,” Verdi said. “It’s a journey, it’s a process. We’re not there, nor do I want to be there right now. We’re going to continue to grow and develop. A lot of room for growth; but it’s Nov.7, not March 7.”

The Minutewomen are next in action on Thursday, Nov. 10, taking on Tennessee at Knoxville. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

Johnny Depin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Jdepin101.