Three players finish in double digits to push UMass’ slow start into sizable win over La Salle

Three Minutewomen finish with double doubles


Kayla Wong/Daily Collegian (2022)

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

In a game that started with nine turnovers and nine points on 4-for-14 shooting, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team ultimately overcame the early slug fest to pull out a 66-42 victory over La Salle on the road, earning its eighth straight win on the 2022-23 season.

With 4:57 to play in the second quarter, the Explorers 3-point shot was way off the mark, missing the basket. While La Salle remained flat footed, physically hanging their heads while watching the miss land, Sydney Taylor was already on the way to collect the loose ball with Destiney Philoxy at half court taking off in the opposite direction. Taylor gathered, looked up and found Philoxy sprinting the middle of the floor for the one-legged layup, pushing the 8-0 run to double digits at 10. The play, while somewhat simple, was indicative of the Minutewomen’s ability to create offense even when no player could score to start the game.

“Those guys do a great job of attacking downhill and when you attack downhill and are aggressive, you’re going to get the defense in rotation and it allows things to open up,” head coach Tory Verdi said of Taylor and Philoxy’s transition play.

UMass (19-4, 9-1 Atlantic 10) transformed stagnant offense into productive transition basketball to increase its lead over La Salle (14-10, 5-4 A-10), pushing what was once a bad first quarter to be nothing but a distant memory, finishing with 20 fast break points compared to La Salles’ three. The effort was charged by veteran starters Sam Breen, Taylor and Angelique Ngalakulondi who all notched double doubles on the day, Taylor’s being the first of her career.

“Really proud of our effort here today,” Verdi said, emphasizing the separation in score from the second quarter to the end of the game. “We did a great job in change of possession, we attacked, we got looks in our primary transition offense and a lot of great front court, back court layups and we executed when we had to … first half sloppy … but I thought our overall want to, connectivity was really good.”

Taylor’s performance was one again the spark plug UMass needed to get things going. She’s averaging 16.3 points per game this season and with her 26 points on Saturday, she’s scored 20 plus points in four of the last five games. What was most beneficial about Taylor’s impact on Saturday’s road effort was the timing of her offensive contribution. Taylor’s triple with less than three to play in the second pushed the lead to 32-16 in favor of the Minutewomen. By halftime, she lead the way with 16 points, as UMass went on a 23-9 run before the break.

Taylor’s offensive prowess remained to close out the game, working in connection with her teammates who began to heat up in the latter half, adding onto the lead in the later minutes of the game. Along with her 26 points, Taylor added 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal. She was 33.3 percent from downtown and shot 50 percent from the field.

Ngalakulondi also recored a double double for UMass with 11 points and 10 rebounds on 5-f0r-9 field goals. Ngalakulondi capitalized on the transition game, sprinting the floor productively to gather and shoot over defenders on the run.

Two minutes into the second quarter, Ber’Nyah Mayo did a dribble into draw defenders then dish to the open player on the parallel block. Ngalakulondi made the layup, kickstarting the run for UMass that ultimately never was relinquished for the rest of the game.

Mayo tied Philoxy in assists on the day at five, and Mayo chipped in three steals while Philoxy had eight points on the day. Molly Masciantonio, who leads the nation in assists to turnover ratio, at 4.26, battled Mayo who sits at 14 in the NCAA rankings for assists to turnover ratio. Masciantonio leads the A-10, while Mayo sits at No. 2 for their conference.

Sam Breen’s “quiet” record breaking performances have been somewhat of a frequent storyline this season. The graduate student had 10 points and 15 rebounds for her 13th double double of the year, the 53rd of her career. Breen shot 50 percent from the field and went 2-for-3 from the 3-point line.

The Explorers shot a season low 11 percent from the 3-point line this season and in the loss, it marks the second straight game that La Salle has failed to reach 50 points. UMass cleanly won the battle on the boards at 47 compared to the Explorers’ 30, in addition to the comparable success from the 3-point line as the Minutewomen shot 37.5  percent. La Salle won the day in terms of turnovers ultimately, losing the ball 18 times to UMass’ 23.

The Minutewomen now return to the Mullins Center to prepare for rival Fordham’s revenge tour on Wednesday as the Rams look to take a win from UMass on its home court like the Minutewomen did in New York back in January.

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