UMass starts conference play with a 74-51 win over St. Bonaventure

Five Minutewomen reach double-digit scoring

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Dylan Nguyen/ Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Massachusetts women’s basketball team defeated Saint Bonaventure in a commanding fashion on Saturday afternoon, winning 74-51 at the Mullins Center. The Minutewomen (11-3, 1-0 Atlantic 10) rode on the back of Sydney Taylor, who dropped 14 second half points after scoring two in the first half. Taylor was one of the five Minutewomen to record double-digit points, which helped UMass maintain its lead for 87.1 percent of the game.

Taylor was joined by Destiney Philoxy, Makennah White, Sam Breen and Ber’Nyah Mayo scoring in double digits. Much of the Minutewomen’s scoring success came with their play in transition, as they capitalized off of 18 turnovers from the Bonnies (3-13, 0-1 A-10), scoring 23 of their 74 points off mistakes from their opponent.

“I was happy with [our play in transition], and like I said, I thought we shared the ball,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We took good shots in transition, but when you go three possessions without scoring, it’s not opportune to shoot a 3-pointer. If it goes in, it’s a great play, but I want to execute, and I want to get a higher percentage shot.”

UMass wasn’t as sloppy as it was against Dartmouth where it recorded 21 turnovers, but Saturday wasn’t much prettier as it still logged 12 turnovers. The Minutewomen benefited from the fact that St. Bonaventure was only able to garner 10 points off of their mistakes with the ball.

Someone who was careful with the ball on Saturday afternoon was Sam Breen, as she dished out a career high 11 assists in addition to 11 points and 14 rebounds. Breen became the first Minutewomen to record a triple double since Jennifer Butler accomplished the feat on Nov. 17, 2000. Breen added no turnovers to her stats on the day.

“When you look at our team, we’re scoring 74 points, 77 points, 73 points and we’re not even playing our best basketball,” Verdi said. “That, to me, is really exciting. When that does happen, it’s going to be awesome to see, because I do think we can play better than we have been playing.”

UMass was in control for much of the game, despite its own shooting woes. It shot a meager 40.3 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc. To counteract the struggles that was seen in jump shots, the Minutewomen dominated in the paint, outscoring the Bonnies 38-10.

Much of this disparity in paint scoring could be chalked up to UMass’ excellence in the transition game, but White, Breen and Angelique Ngalakulondi boxed out their opponents, leading to easy put backs for the forwards. The Minutewomen quadrupled St. Bonaventure’s second chance points, as the Bonnies mustered two to UMass’ eight. Six of Ngalakulondi’s nine points were in the paint, with eight of White’s 13 coming in the painted area.

“We wanted to do a better job of sealing on the inside, and I thought we did that in the first period. We just got to attack the gaps more and then drop off the passes to the post players,” Verdi said. “I know that our post can really duck in and get high percentage shots against a zone. Regardless of how teams play us, whether it’s zone, whether it’s man or whether it’s a junk defense, it does not matter. We have players that can score the basketball, and we don’t need to rely on one person.”

The Minutewomen again won the rebound battle, as they grabbed 46 to the Bonnies 33. Of their 46 rebounds, 13 were offensive, something that has been a hallmark of this UMass squad. Nglakulondi grabbed six of its 13 rebounds, with three of hers coming in the first quarter. Taylor and White each added two offensive boards of their own.

“If we’re coming out, this is hunt number one, and I loved our energy,” Verdi said. “They were prepared, they were really excited to play this game here [Saturday], we got off to a great start, but we have to remind ourselves, it’s not going to happen within the first four minutes.”

UMass ends the year on a positive note, with Breen and Taylor all smiles after the game. The two veterans acknowledged the holiday by answering what they look to achieve in 2023.

“I’m trying to read more,” Breen said of her new year’s resolution. “You wouldn’t think after being in school for six years that I don’t read too much, but I’m trying to read more as a hobby.”

“I’m trying to write more, actually,” Taylor added. “I got an iPad for Christmas, and a little Apple pencil.”

The Minutewomen are next in action on Wednesday, Jan. 4, taking on the University of Rhode Island. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. from the Mullins Center.

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