Ber’Nyah Mayo’s late game heroics drive UMass to win

Mayo’s 19 lead Minutewomen


Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Assistant Sports Editor

Ber’Nyah Mayo was a walking bucket for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, which meant that late in the fourth quarter, she attracted attention from multiple Saint Joseph’s defenders. Mayo, never one to back down from a challenge, started to drive past both defenders before shoveling a perfectly-placed pass to Makennah White for the easy two to make the score 57-56.

“I wouldn’t say I was feeling myself, but more so just wanting to get the win and knowing that this was an important game for us,” Mayo said. “I’m not really sure if I was looking to pass or looking for the shot, I was just trying to make the right play, and [White] was open and I found her.”

Mayo didn’t know it at the time, but that score would seal the game, as UMass (13-4, 4-1 Atlantic 10) would go on to win 58-56.

The Minutewomen half court offense as a whole struggled on Saturday, but Mayo was the exception, dropping 19 points along with three assists, three rebounds and one steal. After scoring 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting in UMass’ previous contest against Loyola Chicago, Mayo turned up the intensity and bet on herself on Saturday.

“It was great to see [Mayo] get going here and take over down the stretch,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “We got her involved in some ball screens, and she was able to create for herself and her teammates. We obviously were able to convert down the stretch.”

Mayo’s late-game takeover wasn’t just making the right plays and finding her open teammates; it involved her calling her own number as well. The tandem of Mayo and White worked together once again, with White setting a ball screen before quickly cutting to the hoop, giving Mayo ample time to step back and can her only 3-pointer of the day to give the Minutewomen a two-point advantage over the Hawks (14-3, 4-1 A-10).

“I feel like [the momentum] changed when I hit the 3-pointer,” Mayo said. “It was kind of like a step-back 3. The crowd got into it more as well as our bench, I feel like that was the key moment for us.”

Mayo’s fourth quarter performance overshadows her performance in the first half, but she was integral in making sure that UMass was even in the position it was in during the fourth quarter. The Minutewomen shot just over 33 percent from the field in the first half and 20 percent from beyond the arc, and of the players who saw 10 or more minutes of action in the first half, Mayo was the only one who shot above 25 percent. Mayo finished the game shooting 50 percent from the floor and on 3-pointers, and shot 4-of-7 on free throws.

“For whatever reason in the beginning of games we’re turning the ball over and settling for shots,” Verdi said. “[Mayo] started being more aggressive and started calling her own number a little bit more … I liked her pace, I liked where she was. There was that confidence of ‘Okay, we’re going to give the ball right back to her and she’s going to make something happen,’ and she did.”

Even with Mayo’s takeover, Saint Joseph’s had two separate opportunities to either send the game to overtime or send the Minutewomen home unhappy, with these opportunities coming off a turnover and a missed free throw. But according to Verdi, Mayo’s confidence had infected the rest of the team by that point.

“Obviously, it becomes contagious,” Verdi said. “All of a sudden, the energy, the momentum, just starts to switch. Regardless of what was happening, there were things that weren’t going our way, all of that [energy] helps.”

“Every game, every practice, kind of just being me,” Mayo said. “If I’m not having a good offensive night, I’m trying to play defense and vice versa.”

UMass is next in action on Wednesday, Jan. 18, taking on Fordham in New York. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be watched on ESPN+.

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