UMass blows out Dayton in A-10 championship rematch

Sam Breen grabs 1000th rebound of collegiate career

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Dylan Nguyen / Daily Collegian

By Johnny Depin, Assistant Sports Editor

On Sunday, in a rematch between last year’s Atlantic 10 championship game competitors, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team blew out Dayton in a game that was all but decided at halftime. Sam Breen’s big second half made sure that it was a definitive blowout for the Minutewomen (15-4, 5-1 A-10), as they won 79-60. The final score doesn’t do the Minutewomen justice, as they led by over 30 points in the beginning of the fourth quarter.

After taking a 17-point lead into the second half of the game, Breen scored 16 points in the latter two quarters as she finished with 18 on the day, notching her 11th double-double, grabbing 11 rebounds. After scoring 19 points in her past two games combined, Breen took advantage of a defense that wasn’t focused on stopping her for one of the first times this season. Breen’s 10th rebound of the night gave her 1000 boards for her college career.

“I mean what can you even say about that,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “It’s outstanding. At this point in time, [Breen] is putting herself in a position to do some special things, she’s a terrific player. Regardless [if it’s] the WNBA or not, she’s going to have an opportunity to play and continue to play basketball after her time here at UMass.”

The reason the Flyers (3-15, 2-5 A-10) defense in the second half wasn’t focused on Breen was because of the first half performance from Sydney Taylor. Taylor was a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-6 from behind the arc in the first half, scoring 23 of her eventual 30 points in the first two quarters. Taylor would take only four shot attempts in the second half, as Dayton switched up its defensive scheme to limit the barrage of 3-pointers that was forced upon it in the first two periods.

“When [Taylor’s] on, we’re really good and we’re really difficult to defend,” Verdi said. “You look at it, we’re scoring on all three levels, and that’s what we need. Assists are connecting from the perimeter, and Ber’Nyah Mayo and those guys are knocking down 3-pointers, all of a sudden it allows for us to attack the interior as well.”

When UMass wasn’t canning it from beyond the arc, more often than not its scoring came from inside the paint. 30 of its 79 were scored off 3-pointers, while just over half of its points were scored inside the painted area. These easy buckets in the paint came by way of pristine ball movement, with the Minutewomen totaling 22 assists on 34 scores. Destiney Philoxy and Mayo led the way dishing the ball, with Philoxy dropping six dimes to Mayo’s five.

Philoxy had an efficient day from the floor as well, shooting 4-of-7 for eight points. She had a pair of smooth baseline jumpers about three minutes into the third quarter, and would finish a game high plus 30. Breen was right behind her at plus 29, with Mayo finishing at a plus 22. Efficiency was the name of the game for the whole of UMass, as it scored on 34 of its 68 possessions. It attempted just six shots from the charity stripe, making five. Makennah White accounted for three of the five made free throws.

“It was one of our best games so far this year. When you look at it, just the selflessness,” Verdi said. “We had 22 assists on the day. When you talk about execution, you talk about sharing the basketball, we did that here [Sunday]. I’m extremely proud of our players.”

Coming off a game against Fordham where the Minutewomen forced 19 turnovers, their ferocity on the defensive side of the ball was there again on Sunday. They forced 18 turnovers and scored 20 points from the Flyers’ mistakes. In the second quarter, Kristin Williams read an attempted pass perfectly before going coast-to-coast for the layup to push the UMass lead to 12. Dayton would never get the lead back down to single digits.

“We played complete basketball. Coming into this game, I felt like we had momentum,” Verdi said. “We’re turning a corner with injuries, we’re getting some chemistry. This was an important game to be who we are, and for 40 minutes, I thought we did a great job of out-working them and out-toughing them.”

The Minutewomen are next in action on Thursday, Jan. 26, taking on VCU from the Mullins Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.

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