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 perimeter play proves vital in win

Minutewomen hold Fordham to two 3-pointers in latter 20 minutes
Kayla Wong / Daily Collegian

As the Massachusetts women’s basketball team went to the locker room for halftime, it trailed Fordham 41-39. The Rams (16-9, 8-4 Atlantic 10) canned seven 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes of play, with five of them coming from Asiah Dingle and Anna DeWolfe.

DeWolfe, along with the rest of Fordham blew down the proverbial house of sticks that was the Minutewomen (20-4, 10-1 A-10) defense in the first half, as the Rams shot 63.6 percent from beyond the arc. Fordham exploited a team-centric UMass defense that focused on switches, putting post players on an island. Just under half of the Ram’s first half field goal attempts came from 3-point land.

“We changed up what we did defensively, we didn’t switch in the second half,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “[The message] was ‘we got to defend.'”

UMass heeded Verdi’s message, as the volcanic eruption from Fordham in the first half simmered down to a cool glass of lemonade in the second. In the latter half, the Rams connected on just two of their 13 3-point attempts, good for 15.4 percent. DeWolfe, after going perfect from 3-point territory in the first half shot a meager 1-of-5 from behind the line in the latter 20 minutes.

“[Fordham] was getting a lot of pretty easy looks [in the first half],” Sam Breen said. “We still had some possessions where we were caught ball watching, they found the cutter and everything, but just locking into those changes [in the second half], changes that we don’t make often. Really knowing who we were guarding and how we were playing them. It’s usually more of a team thing but [Wednesday] we focused on individuals.”

Destiney Philoxy epitomized the adjustments that Verdi and his staff made, grabbing three steals in the 10 minutes following the break. With her second steal in the quarter, Philoxy moved to third all-time in career steals for the Minutewomen. In the second half, when the Rams were able to force switches from the stalwart UMass defense, more often than not it was Makennah White finding herself matched up with a guard. She was more than able to hold her own against the smaller, quicker perimeter players and Fordham possessions frequently ended with a missed jumper over White.

“I thought [White] was very good,” Verdi said. “She contained Dingle 1-on-1, defensively.”

Wednesday’s game was a movie that UMass had seen before, that movie being a team going ice cold after the break. In its previous game, La Salle shot 1-of-13 in the second half, and in the game before that, Richmond shot 2-of-7 in its fourth quarter conquest against UMass.

Conversely, the Minutewomen shot the lights out when they had the ball in their hands. After a slow start in the first quarter where they hit one of their four attempts from beyond the arc, they shot 6-of-11 in the second quarter. Ber’Nyah Mayo hit two of her eventual three 3-pointers in the second quarter. Sydney Taylor hit both of her 3-pointers in the quarter, with Breen and Philoxy each adding one of their own.

Both Taylor and Mayo have been on a hot streak from downtown lately, with Taylor averaging just over four makes per game in her last six appearances. Mayo on the other hand is averaging just one 3-pointer per game in her last six games but is ultra efficient, shooting the ball at a 40 percent clip.

“It’s a great feeling, it gives me a lot of options,” Verdi said on having five players on the floor who can score. “We have players that can score the basketball. At times, on certain nights depending on what teams are doing, it may not be their night or it might be their night. Through the course of the game we figure out who to go to.”

UMass is next in action on Sunday, Feb. 12, taking on George Mason. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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

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