UMass dominates Arizona State on the road 88-64

Defensive effort puts the Minutewomen on top

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Kayla Wong / Daily Collegian

By Rachel Toth , Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team started off the Briann January Classic with a win on the road against Arizona State, a win that emphasized its defensive strength. The win marks the Minutewomen’s (8-1) first win over a Power five opponent since 2008.

UMass started the game off strong, quick in transition and connecting passes at all spots on the court. Ber’Nyah Mayo dished out 10 assists, being a key component to the Minutewomen’s passing game. Smooth, efficient passing broke the Sun Devils’ (6-2) defense early and allowed open looks for the entire team, with four UMass players in double-digits.

“Tonight, we were connected, you could tell. Everyone was on the same page,” head coach Tory Verdi said.

The Minutewomen’s defense shined throughout the game, especially in the paint. They forced the Sun Devils to shoot from outside, a shot that is rarely consistent.  Arizona State knocked down six from behind the arc, but where it fell short was inside the arc, shooting 29.6 percent from the field.

“I thought defensively they couldn’t get anything going. They were frustrated,” Verdi said. “[The game plan] took them out of what they wanted to run offensively. When you’re not scoring and the other team gets momentum, it’s hard. I thought that was deflating for them and we just continued our surge.”

UMass would control all facets of the game, including rebounding, something it struggled with at the start of the season. It finished the game with 54 total rebounds, compared to Arizona State’s 43. Angelique Ngalakulondi converted her offensive rebounds to become the leading scorer for UMass on Friday with 21 points.

After continuous misses at the rim in the first half, the Sun Devils attempted to shake up the Minutewomen’s offense with tighter pressure. UMass read this higher defense and quickly broke it to generate easy layups.

“I think our guards did a really good job of attacking. With their pressure, they’re running two people at the ball, and so as soon as we either go by them or make a pass, then we have opportunities where it could be a three-on-two… and they were giving us layups,” Verdi said.

Although Sam Breen, Destiney Philoxy and Sydney Taylor all scored in double-digits, players coming off the bench were key contributors as well. Laila Fair added eight points and snagged 10 rebounds while tacking on three blocks.

“[Fair] did a great job on [Kayla Mokwuah]. When she was at [George Washington], she kicked our butt. She had a night, so it was great to see [Ngalakulondi] and [Fair] defend her and not let her be the impact player that she can be,” Verdi said.

Kristin Williams made an appearance in the second half of Friday’s game, playing 12 solid minutes for the Minutewomen. She hit a few shots and was able to get to the foul line, ending the game with six points.

“It was great to see [Williams] out there, for the first time, knocking down a three,” Verdi said. “She needs to get some of those minutes to get some confidence and play the way I know that she’s capable.”

UMass has one more game to play at the Desert Financial Arena against the Mizzou Tigers on Saturday, Dec. 3. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

Rachel Toth can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RachelToth46.