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

‘She had that edge,’ Sam Breen puts up 29, 11 and 8 against VCU on Thursday

Breen two points shy of her career best 31 points
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

Sam Breen sank a 3-pointer, top of the key, her 29th point of the day. Next play, she stole the ball; her fourth grab of the day. The play after that, Breen missed a jumper and with 3:36 remaining in the game, head coach Tory Verdi subbed her out.

Before she sat down, hearing the amplified screams of the children in the Mullins Center, celebrating Field Trip day, Verdi said something to Breen.

“He said he was trying to get me another bucket on the out of bounds play and I missed, so, I blew out,” Breen explained with laughter.

Breen’s missed layup was a chance to match or potentially best her career high in points at 31. She was two assists shy of another triple double, her first that broke records in December when she had 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. Before tipoff, Breen was honored at half court for a career milestone, as she recorded her 1,000th career rebound against Dayton on Sunday. Even though his captain narrowly missed another accomplishment in the record books, Verdi had no complaints about what she brought to the table on Thursday afternoon, as the Massachusetts women’s basketball team defeated VCU 83-57.

“I liked everything,” Verdi said. “You go through ebbs and flows, today she had the edge, today she wanted it, today she wasn’t second guessing, today she was attacking passes, confident and playing the way I know she is capable of playing. She showed pretty much everyone why she is the A-10 player of the year.”

Against Dayton, Breen’s offense didn’t come alive until the second quarter, when she scored just two in the opening 20 minutes but finished with 18 on the day. On Thursday, in the electrified Mullins with nearly 4,000 kids yelling in support of the Minutewomen (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic 10), Breen got things going early.

She had 12 points in the first quarter alone, fueling off back to back buckets just five minutes into play, then began grabbing layups in transition with dishes from Ber’Nyah Mayo. Feeding off the Rams (5-14, 2-5 A-10) lack of answer for her offensive prowess, the 6-foot-1-inch graduate student began heating up from downtown, knocking her first of eventually three 3-pointers with 7:53 to play in the second quarter.

What contributed to the nearly missed triple double was her assists, as Breen’s team high of eight added to the team total of 25, a stat Verdi applauded following the win. Sydney Taylor is who Breen should thank for that stat, as Taylor had a 20 plus afternoon herself, dropping 21 points of her own on 8-of-14 shooting.

In the fourth, after Stefanie Kulesza’s outlet pass was narrowly picked off by VCU, Breen stepped in to save and spin around the defender, sprinting down the court and hitting Taylor cross court who buried the triple. Breen turned the other way, with her two hands flashing three fingers, smiling at her teammates shot.

Coming into the Thursday matinee, Breen wanted to make an extra effort to see the floor, making extra passes when they were there. “When I was attacking … finding our open teammates and really running in transition, I know we had a few breakaways … finding the open shooters and everything like that,” Breen said.

The two’s connection was apparent prior to the fourth, as they dished to each other all game, contributing to each other’s offensive success. Taylor sprinted to save a ball out of bounds, found Mayo to go the other way, who hit Breen for the bucket with 2:56 to play in the first quarter. In the third, Breen found Taylor on the run in transition to push the score 53-35 with just under five to go.

Following the blowout victory, the children that filled Mullins lined up for pictures, autographs and high fives from the team, an unusual post game tradition but pleasant surprise for the Minutewomen.

“I think its awesome, I wish we could do it more because the energy is just unmatched … having all those little kids cheer for anything we do even if they don’t always know what they are cheering for is just appreciated, knowing them lining up for us at the end, wanting high fives or autographs is just super exciting because we were once in their shoes,” Breen said.

UMass turns things back to the road as it takes on Duquesne on Sunday with tip off in Pittsburg scheduled for 2 p.m.

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

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