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

UMass lights up the first half to pick up 83-61 road win over Duquesne

Minutewomen dominate from start to finish
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

There was no stopping the Massachusetts women’s basketball team in the opening 10 minutes of Sunday’s matinee. By the 7:38 mark, the Minutewomen had already knocked down four 3-pointers, putting UMass (17-4, 7-1 Atlantic 10) up 14-4 over Duquesne. By the end of the first quarter, UMass hit six 3’s,

The Dukes (14-8, 4-5 A-10) had no answer, UMass excelled on a multitude of levels with textbook basketball to start the game. Sunday’s game marked the most points scored in the first quarter this season.

“I told my team, great teams come out with a sense of urgency and want to, they accepted the challenge,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “I thought our performance in the first period was remarkable … I just thought that ultimately we did a great job on both sides of the ball … extremely proud of our effort here today.”

Stef Kulesza came into the game, hit a 3 pointer of her own, then on the other end worked to stay straight up and cleanly block the Dukes’ layup attempt. Sydney Taylor kept the magic going, stepping back into a NBA range 3-pointer at the buzzer, piling onto the early lead at the end of the first. Eventually, she finished the third quarter exactly how she ended the first, with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to quarter, making it 70-40 UMass after three.

Taylor’s contribution was far from one dimensional. The senior rebounded, took control both in and outside of the paint and had herself a strong defensive effort early. In the first half, Taylor grabbed an offensive rebound to feed Ber’Nyah Mayo who dribbled out the fresh clock, forcing herself to take a somewhat off balance extended layup attempt on a nice up and under move. Mayo reacted before the shot missed, beating the defender to the punch, grabbing her own rebound and putting in the much easier two pointer. Taylor finished with another 20 point performance, one rebound short of a double double.

“When she is shooting the ball like that, it opens up things for everyone else … I think the energy is just infectious,” Verdi said of Taylor’s shooting.

Mayo, per usual, fed her teammates timely on the run, giving both Makennah White and Angelique Ngalakulondi opportunities on the fly. She managed to bring strong offense into the second quarter, starting it with a jumper for herself and matching the energy on the other end. With 8:10 in the second, after her jumper, Mayo stole the ball from Tess Myers and drew the foul moments after stripping the ball.

With five minutes in the first quarter after early domination, Duquesne switched to a 3-2 zone defense in hopes to stop the bleeding from the outside. UMass, whose post game is its strong suit, began feeding Sam Breen, White and Ngalakulondi inside. With 7:03 in the second quarter, Taylor hit Ngalakulondi with a bullet pass from the wing to the inside who had no issue scoring the two points.

By halftime UMass was 46 percent from behind the arc and 56 percent from the floor, having a 4:1 assist ratio, grabbing an assist on almost every score. Even when the Minutewomen weren’t efficient on first touch or attempt, the extra effort for second chance opportunities made the difference. Mayo had a 3-point shot blocked but the other four Dukes on the floor just watched the ball fall into the paint. Breen threw up the layup but missed putting the third attempt in the hands of White who also couldn’t connect. The ball eventually was in the hands of Destiney Philoxy who finished the extended sequence with a triple. What could have been a block and a steal the other way for Duquesne was three rebounds for UMass and three more points on its already large lead.

Taylor’s success from downtown closed off a much less dominant third quarter, however UMass still outworked the Dukes following halftime. Duquesne found some offensive rhythm, as it shot 40 percent from the field compared to the Minutewomen’s 50 but matched UMass from behind the arc with two triples on three attempts. After four quarters played, UMass won the battle on the boards 46-33, and finished with 23 assists, 25 points off the bench and turned the ball over 12 times, just one less than the Dukes 13.

It was a bit of a homecoming for Breen and White, the two Pennsylvania natives. White had 14 points on the day and nine rebounds while Breen had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

“Its great whenever we can bring players home and let them play in front of their families and friends,” Verdi said.

UMass now returns back to the Mullins Center for a Wednesday night game against Richmond on Feb. 1 for the annual #Play4Kay game.  Game time is set for 7 p.m.

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

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