Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Best way to spread holiday cheer for UMass: A 81-34 win at home

Minutewomen bounce back to defeat Saint Peter’s on Wednesday
Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

Semester is over, finals are submitted and the University of Massachusetts campus is empty, but that didn’t stop the Massachusetts women’s basketball from putting on an offensive clinic in Amherst on Wednesday, as it defeated Saint Peter’s 81-34.

“I guess that’s how you want to end a game right before Christmas, going into the holidays,” head coach Tory Verdi said.

Following an 11-day break from play, UMass (9-3) showed little signs of rust, breaking away in the second quarter to put the Peacocks (0-10, 0-1 Metro Atlantic) on a three-quarter spin cycle, pulling out the dominant win at home.

The first four minutes were ugly but once Makennah White subbed in for the first time in six games, things turned around. White subbed in, Sydney Taylor nailed a 3-pointer and the next play down, Ber’Nyah Mayo stripped Saint Peter’s on the high press. 2:45 to go in the rocky opening quarter, Destiney Philoxy fed White who textbook faked the initial layup, avoiding the block but still drawing the foul for the 3-point play.

“[White] understands basketball, she communicates it really well and she is part of our success, so it did hurt us when she was out, there is no question about that, great to see her getting back involved, really great minutes … super proud of her,” Verdi said.

Given the smaller height of the Peacock roster, the Minutewomen saw a lot of zone defense to work around. Collectively, UMass moved the ball with minimal issue as Verdi emphasized the team wide 26 assists, representative of his team’s selflessness on offense. Philoxy had a team high seven dishes to mirror her seven points along with six rebounds.

Saint Peter’s zone was no match for the Minutewomen’s ability to attack and kick weak side, reversing the ball around the perimeter for high quality shots if the initial high low wasn’t available.

On Wednesday, not a single player played over 30 minutes, an unusual stat for the UMass roster. Verdi has looked to his bench to step up in large lead games, and on Wednesday, it seemed no matter what combination of five players he had out there, it worked.

“We are really systematic on both sides of the ball,” Verdi said. “No matter who is in the game, personnel wise, they fit that role and regardless of who we put in … we are still going to continue to do the things that we do.”

With White’s recent injury and Laila Fair’s early season ankle sprain, the two forwards hadn’t seen the floor together since the less than two-minute stint Fair had against Lowell. The Nov. 22 game was the last game White had played in before Wednesday, and the first game back for Fair since her respective injury.

In the final three minutes of Wednesday’s win, White snagged her 10th rebound of the day to grab her second career double-double on a quality feed to Fair inside for two. White had 15 points, 11 boards and three assists.

“We wanted to go high low, it worked at times, we finished around the basket which was really good, I thought we were more imposing physically and I thought those [two] did a really nice job for us,” Verdi said.

The Peacocks typically score in transition, so the Minutewomen’s intentions were to contain their dribble penetration, to prevent them from getting downhill and attacking the basket.

“I thought that we zapped their guards athletic ability attacking the basket because of our hard hedges [on screens] our posts did a great job getting out … the second thing was containing them in a half court, staying in front of them and we talked about defending your player, we did a really good job [of keeping them in front] … we were able to stop them and force them into tough shots,” Verdi said.

When the UMass press didn’t wreak havoc initially, the systematic defense made up for it by forcing numerous shot clock violations on Saint Peter’s or like Verdi praised, forcing the Peacocks into off balance 3-pointers. The Peacocks scored single digits for three quarters straight, only scoring 10 in the fourth quarter alone.

The defense ran fluid into the high energy offense on Wednesday, as one chance shots and defensive rebounds translated into one legged layups on the other end. The Minutewomen had 38 defensive rebounds to Saint Peter’s 14, and UMass scored 14 fast break points and 29 of its total 81 off turnovers. UMass had a 14-0 run in the second quarter and a 18-0 run to start the third.

Taylor led the way in scoring for the Minutewomen, with 17 on 5-of-12 from behind the arc and Sam Breen was not far behind chipping in 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Mayo – who Verdi thought commanded the floor for all 40 minutes – had nine points, six rebounds and five assists.

UMass shot 45.6 percent from the field to the Peacocks’ 17.6 percent and had 52 total rebounds to Saint Peter’s 29. Even against the zone defense, the Minutewomen managed to score 40 points in the paint.

UMass kicks things off again after the holiday, with a Dec. 28 match up against Dartmouth to finish off non-conference play. Tip-off is in Amherst is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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

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  • J

    Judy FahertyDec 21, 2022 at 11:06 pm

    Great picture of this satisfying game! Fun to watch live, with the added bonus of the Collegian’s replay.