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 secures 10th straight win, defeating George Mason 78-57

Sydney Taylor drops four second half 3-pointers
Kayla Wong / Daily Collegian

It seemed as though the Massachusetts women’s basketball team had a lid on the rim when it came to 3-point attempts in the first half. Shooting just over nine percent from beyond the arc, the Minutewomen (21-4, 11-1 Atlantic 10) couldn’t buy a bucket from downtown against George Mason in the first half. Sam Breen had 12 points in the opening 20 minutes, all coming within the arc.

However, as UMass and the Patriots (12-14, 5-8 A-10) entered the locker rooms at halftime, the Minutewomen still held an 18-point advantage, even with cold shooting from 3-point land. The latter two halves, UMass would continue to build on its lead in the second half, winning by an eventual score of 78-57.

“I just thought that we were moving, we did a great job of containing the dribble penetration,” head coach Tory Verdi said. “[George Mason] is a team that doesn’t shoot the 3-pointer at a high percentage, and we knew that. Our focus and our want-to [Sunday] was on point, which it needed to be.”

Sydney Taylor almost single-handedly turned UMass’ woes from 3-point land to begin the second half, hitting three of her four 3-pointers in the second half in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Taylor shifted from corner to corner, splashing 3-pointers whether she was wide open or faced tight coverage. Taylor would finish with 21 points on 5-of-11 3-point shooting. Breen would also finish with 21, in addition to 14 rebounds and five assists.

But to Verdi, the true star of the game was Ber’Nyah Mayo. Mayo scored four the team’s first eight points, and would finish with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Mayo and Destiney Philoxy led the charge early for the Minutewomen, with Philoxy scoring four of her six points in the opening minutes. On one of the first offensive sets UMass ran, Philoxy blew past her defender on the perimeter before splitting the two defenders in the paint to give the Minutewomen their first lead of the game, a lead they would never relinquish.

“It all started with [Mayo],” Verdi said. “Her first period, that first half was great. Really, [she’s] our catalyst. [Mayo] got things going, made things happen.”

When it wasn’t Mayo, Breen or Taylor taking the game over, UMass utilized ball movement and weak side cuts to catch the Patriots sleeping. Midway through the first quarter, Makennah White sat with the ball at the free throw line, and Breen, seeing that her defender was caught ball watching, made a quick cut to the basket for the easy two, her only points of the quarter.

This play wasn’t an isolated incident; the Minutewomen finished with 20 assists to eight turnovers. Breen and Mayo led the team with five, while Philoxy added four of her own. No one on the team had more than three turnovers.

“I thought that we executed really well, we valued the basketball,” Verdi said. “Only eight turnovers on the day, regardless if they were playing guys man-to-man or zone, I thought that we had our way with them. Really proud of our effort.”

Breen, as she has all season, had another quiet but excellent performance. It was her 14th double-double of the year and the 54th of her collegiate career. After reaching the 1000 rebound mark earlier this season, Breen now sits third in all time scoring in UMass history. With four regular season games remaining, Breen has a chance to further etch her name in the catacombs of UMass women’s basketball greatness.

But according to Verdi, she’s not worried in the slightest.

“[Breen’s] close, but right now we’re not going to worry about that,” Verdi said. “If it happens, great, and I’m not going to be surprised. I’ve been watching her for a long time now. I think it’s inevitable, and I think it’s right around the corner. But I know [Breen], and she’s not looking for that. All she wants to do is win basketball games.”

The Minutewomen are next in action on Thursday, Feb. 16 taking on Rhode Island. This will be UMass’ biggest test of the year, as URI is the only conference team  that it has lost to. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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

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