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 wins on Field Trip day, defeats VCU 83-57

Minutewomen defense leads to easy offense
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

On a day where thousands of screaming children littered the Mullins Center, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team won a game against Virginia Commonwealth that was never particularly close. After the Minutewomen (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic 10) took the lead midway through the first quarter, they would never relinquish it, eventually winning by a final score of 83-57.

“We got off to a great start, having that type of environment, I know that our players were excited to play,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “[Our players] looked like they were shot out of a canon, and we were flying down the floor. We had an unbelievable sense of urgency and I expect that.”

After starting conference play with poor openings, UMass put that behind it on Thursday, outscoring the Rams (5-14, 2-5 A-10) 22-8 in the first quarter. Sydney Taylor and Sam Breen accounted for 18 of the 22 points that the Minutewomen scored in the opening 10 minutes, with Breen outscoring VCU herself with 12. She would finish with another double-double, dropping 29 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

Taylor, the other leading scorer from the first quarter, put on a clinic in jump shooting. Coming off a game where she scored 30 points while missing only one shot, Taylor scored at an extremely efficient rate once again, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Taylor scored in a multitude of ways on Thursday, whether it be catch and shoot 3-pointers, creating her own shot in the midrange game, or receiving passes from Breen on the fast break that resulted in easy buckets.

“I mean [Breen] says it’s the high bun,” Taylor said of what has sparked her recent scoring outburst.

“She may have times where she’s not [shooting well], but she does other things, you can’t be one dimensional,” Verdi said of Taylor. “Right now, she’s scoring the ball at all three levels, but her pace today, her activity on both sides of the ball, I thought she was terrific.”

UMass barely won the rebounding battle on Thursday, grabbing 36 to the Rams 35. VCU was able to snag nine offensive boards, with two of those coming on the opening possession, with the Minutewomen unable to box out their opponent. Angelique Ngalakulondi eventually fouled Timaya Lewis-Eutsey, who hit both free throws.

Much of UMass’ success on offense came from the effort that it had on defense. It snatched 11 steals, and forced 20 turnovers from the opposition. The Minutewomen scored 28 points off the VCU turnovers, while only turning the ball over seven times themselves. The Rams scored four points off turnovers.

“Defensively, our activity on that side of the ball, just containing the dribble penetration,” Verdi said. “We knew that they wanted to attack in transition, and we didn’t want to give up those one-legged layups. A lot of that defense, especially when we got stops, created our offense. We were able to push and attack offensively.”

As the clock winded to end the first half, with VCU chipping away at the UMass lead, Ber’Nyah Mayo had the ball in her hands with the shot clock turned off. As she looked to find one of her open teammates, time continued to run, with her eventually settling for a step-back 3-pointer. She fell to the ground, the whistle was blown and the ball swished through the net, giving Mayo a 4-point play opportunity.

It seemed that regardless of how tightly covered the Minutewomen were on Thursday, they continued to hit their shots. They shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point line, and 47.9 percent from the floor as a whole. 27 of their 83 points came from 3-point land, while 48 points were scored in the paint.

Whenever UMass would fall into a slump, the crowd comprised of just around 4,000 elementary school students would bring the energy that it needed to succeed. It was the largest crowd for a game this season by a large margin, and it had a definite affect on the morale and effort of the players.

“It was just a great environment,” Verdi said. “A lot of noise, a lot of screaming, I don’t know if they were screaming at me, screaming at the other team, or maybe both. Proud of our effort here for 40 minutes.”

The Minutewomen are next in action on Sunday, Jan. 29, taking on Duquesne in Pittsburgh. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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

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