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

Destiney decides UMass’ destiny, leads Minutewomen past Richmond

Philoxy drops 16 points, dishes 4 assists
Chris Tucci / UMass Athletics

WILMINGTON, Del. – Heading into the semifinal match up of the Atlantic 10 tournament against No. 5 Richmond, the Massachusetts women’s basketball knew Grace Townsend facilitated the Spiders (20-10, 8-6 A-10) offense.

From tipoff to the final buzzer, Destiney Philoxy executed the defensive assignment, in addition to leading UMass (26-5, 14-2 A-10) on the offensive end with 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting and four assists, lifting the Minutewomen to their third straight A-10 championship game.

Townsend came off a six assist performance against Fordham on Friday night, looking to do just the same against UMass less than 24 hours later. Townsend’s specialty is going end line to end line, utilizing her speed to push the pace in transition. She likes to flatten out her opponents defense with quick passes, off ball movement and perimeter basketball which gave the Minutewomen an extra assignment of watching both Townsend and the off ball player to ensure her speed and high IQ wouldn’t rip through their defense.

Verdi explained the game plan was to jam Townsend up from the start and from far back, not allowing her to comfortably bring the ball up or create one legged layups, putting a strong emphasis on dribble penetration. Philoxy’s lock down defense on the junior guard forced her to look everywhere but the basket. Townsend didn’t take a shot until the fourth quarter, with her only points for the first three coming by way of the free throw line. With pressure coming immediately after a made UMass basket, the only thing Townsend could do is work in a half court set where the Minutewomen were prepared to defend, switch and help.

“She did a great job and it’s really hard, when you are doing that for almost 40 minutes a game, she emptied out her tank [on Saturday] there is no question about that, there is a reason why she planted the flag [Saturday] for us,” head coach Tory Verdi said.

Townsend finished with five points and five assists.

What took Philoxy’s game on Friday from one dimensional to two was her offensive prowess. The energy and composure on both sides of the ball guided the Minutewomen through the shooting droughts that trickled into the second and third quarter, in addition to working through the tight man defense. Philoxy forced Richmond to call timeout as she dribbled the entire shot clock down, extending her arm across for the layup in traffic, adding to the early 9-2 run. When the early success lingered with a Spiders second quarter surge rewriting the game temporarily, Philoxy received a pass from Ber’Nyah Mayo with less than 40 seconds to play, immediately hitting Makennah White who faced the Richmond bench before turning, working her way in and securing the impressive two points for a 32-30 halftime lead.

“It opens up a lot, open shooters, drop off passes to the post players when she is attacking because [defenders] don’t know if she is going to go through the lane and drop it off or kick it out for the 3-pointer,” White said.

Following the break, Philoxy split the defense textbook style, drilling a low bounce pass once the third defender stepped up to help, finding Sam Breen in the corner. Breen nailed the triple in the corner, earning a smile and verbal appreciation from Sydney Taylor running back to the other end of the floor.

“Obviously [Philoxy] does that really well, she showed that [Saturday],” Breen said. “She did a really good job finding open shooters … not only attacking but finding the one more extra pass.”

Given the physical nature of tournament play, staying out of foul trouble made all the difference especially with such a skilled ball handler like Townsend who invites you in to reach every time she crosses over at the point position. Philoxy stayed straight up with her hands out of foul territory. Mayo was sent to the bench with her hands up in a shrugging motion, after the ref signaled a questionable foul call for her fifth. Both Mayo and Philoxy alternate the point position but mainly Mayo serves as floor general. In the last 4:22, it was all Philoxy.

“She took control,” Verdi said of Philoxy’s floor control follow Mayo’s early exit. “She’s getting pressured, she’s changing speed, she didn’t allow Townsend to bother her in the backcourt … she knew exactly what we wanted to do at that point in time, utilizing the possession and valuing the clock.”

Philoxy not only dealt with the final effort defense picking her up at half court, but she finished at the line when the foul was called. She was 5-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 10 minutes, and sank her extra point when she was called for the and one layup in the third quarter.

UMass and Philoxy in her final campaign as a Minutewomen have a chance to repeat Sunday at noon, facing the winner of No. 2 Rhode Island or No. 3 Saint Louis for the A-10 championship.

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

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